Gene Munster: No car from Apple for at least five years

The Apple car story that had been running on fumes for a week got something it badly needed: Some actual reporting by journalists who cover the automotive beat. Namely Mike Ramsey for the Wall Street Journal, Andy Sharman for the Financial Times and Edward Taylor for Reuters.

If you want to get up to speed, I recommend the WSJ’s and FT’s reports. They both describe a large R&D project — code named Titan, according to the Journal — which their anonymous sources say is charged with making a Tesla-like electric car.

Reuters goes further, giving support to the rumor that Apple is making a self-driving car. “It’s all about autonomous driving,” an unnamed source tells the wire service.

The Journal, citing its own unnamed source, reports that “a self-driving car is not part of Apple’s current plan.” (Emphasis mine.)

Meanwhile Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, in a note to clients Saturday, put the story in the context of his particular hobbyhorse — the mythical Apple television — and offered a time frame:

While we believe Apple can do both a TV and a car, it seems far more likely that we get a TV from Apple in the next five years than a car.”

Munster points out that the profit margins on cars are even thinner than on televisions, and that TVs fit more neatly into Apple’s hardware/software/services framework than cars do.

He also asks a good question: “Given the WSJ article’s report that Apple CEO Tim Cook approved project Titan a year ago… why is this information coming out now?”

Munster’s take: To give investors a new project to dream about. A side benefit, says the Journal, is to give restless Apple engineers, weary of churning out incremental updates, a reason to stick around.

See also: Churnalism in action: The Apple self-driving car

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple AAPL coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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