Elon Musk, chairman and CEO of Tesla Motors
Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Jen Wieczner
November 6, 2015

In a surprise appearance at the Baron Investment Conference in New York City Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was also taken by surprise by one of the questions he was asked on stage.

Interviewing the CEO at the annual event at Lincoln Center, conference host Ron Baron, founder of Baron Capital, asked the chief of electric car maker Tesla (TSLA) what he thought of the threat that ride-sharing company Lyft posed to its larger competitor Uber. Noting that legendary investor Carl Icahn recently took a large stake in Lyft, Baron asked Musk, “What is it about Uber’s business that will make them immune from being attacked by Lyft? Does Lyft have a chance against Uber?”

Musk initially acted somewhat dumfounded by the question. “Oh wow,” he said. “I’m not really the expert in that arena.”

But then he took a stab anyway, while offering another disclaimer while hinting that he’s been more focused on running his own companies, which include Tesla as well as SpaceX. “I mean I’ve spent no time thinking about it,” Musk said. “But my impression with like, low, low confidence, is there’s room for both Uber and Lyft. Yeah, that’s what I can see.”

Musk had recently dodged questions about Uber, such as on an August earnings call in which an analyst asked whether Tesla would consider selling its cars to companies like Uber and Lyft, or whether it might decide to compete directly with its own on-demand ride-hailing service. Musk declined to comment at that time, but acknowledged at the Baron conference, “I’ve been asked that a lot.”

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