Apple's recent hirings suggest Cupertino is going toe-to-toe with Google and Tesla

Remember when the rumours swirled that Apple was continually hiring medical tech executives, before the Apple Watch was announced, which fuelled the rumours that the device (known as the iWatch back then) was indeed a reality?

Well, Apple has now moved on and is starting to hire experts from the car industry, or such is the latest buzz on the job grapevine.

And, according to the FT’s sources (via CNBC), Cupertino has set up a new top secret research lab for automotive tech, where Apple bods have met with car industry execs in recent times, to discuss future possibilities – and in some cases try to poach them. The head of Mercedes-Benz's Silicon Valley R&D unit has apparently become one of Apple’s latest recruits, the inside sources reckon.

As we’ve previously reported, Apple has also won over staff from Tesla, with some engineers defecting, as even CEO of Tesla Elon Musk admits – with Cupertino offering massive salary increases to tempt folks.

What’s really striking, though, is that the FT report claims this isn’t about CarPlay or in-car dashboard technology in general, but that Apple could be working on, or at least looking into, the possibility of its own car.

One source who has worked with Apple for a number of years told the FT: “Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay. Today I think it's a car.”

An alleged email from an Apple staff member said that Apple’s latest project would give Tesla a “run for its money”.

Others have predictably poured cold water on that idea. Manufacturing gadgets is one thing – but building and producing your own vehicle is another completely. That said, the profit margin Apple would be able to command might well be tempting…

If there is indeed a car in the works, it will be a long way down the line, mind you. The car, along with the smart home, are sectors Apple is looking to make a major impact in for the long-term.

The company certainly has plenty of cash to fuel experiments in whatever it fancies, particularly given the amount of dough the latest iPhones are raking in. Cupertino's big pile of cash is the reason why it can afford to offer such attractive salaries in terms of poaching...