A kerfuffle erupted Thursday when Bloomberg reported
It all sounds like a tempest in a teapot. Apple isn’t commenting, and no one know whether Apple would actually make its own car from the ground up or join with an existing car maker. Or when this car might actually hit the market.
Well, a tempest in a big teapot. After the Bloomberg story hit, shortly after noon, Apple (ticker: AAPL) stock jumped about 2%.
(TSLA) dropped about 2%.
(F) dropped 3%.
(GM) shed roughly 2%. The
Dow Jones Industrial Average
were relatively stable up about 0.4% and down about 0.2%, respectively.
“We continue to believe it’s a matter of when, not if, Apple enters the EV race and this will add another $30+ per share of TAM to the Apple growth story over the next few years,” wrote Wedbush analyst Dan Ives in a Thursday note reacting to the story.
TAM is short for total addressable market. And $30 per Apple share is $500 billion. That’s a lot, even if Apple only got a fraction of this market.
Details are thin. Ives, for instance, sees partnerships as most likely where Apple doesn’t build the car itself. And he puts a 60% to 65% change of seeing an Apple car unveiled by 2025.
Then there is the issue of full self driving. That supposedly would be Apple’s edge when entering the market.
Fully autonomous consumer cars, however, won’t be ready for years.
Waymo and GM’s Cruise division along with Motional—a joint venture between Hyundai and
(APTV)–sell a fully self-driving taxi. But the technology used by that trio costs tens of thousands of dollars per car. It only works in commercial vehicles like a taxi.
But if Apple is sitting on hidden fully autonomous technology and it doesn’t want to manufacture cars itself, it would be, essentially, a large Aptiv. Aptiv sells safety and power solutions to the auto industry.
That makes Apple sounds more like a supplier and less like an auto maker. That isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different from what the stock market assumed on Thursday. If Apple has the hidden tech it could even sell subscriptions to the technology and split the sales with auto maker partners.
Gary Black, managing partner of the
Future Fund Active
ETF (FFND), is skeptical about an Apple car. “The idea is utter nonsense—there is no edge,” he tells Barron’s. “Brands don’t extend into categories where there is no clear distinctive competence.” He is a Tesla bull, but added that the idea of a Tesla phone is just as silly as an Apple car.
Time will tell if Black is right. Meanwhile, Project Titan—Apple’s name for the car project that stretches back to 2014—will continue to tantalize investors and upset auto stocks from time to time.
Write to Al Root at firstname.lastname@example.org