Piper Jaffray sees 'Apple Car' as longterm project with potential short-term effect on stock

Artist's (poor) rendering of an Apple garage.

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Investment firm Piper Jaffray doesn't expect a mythical "Apple Car" to be on the roads anytime soon, but the firm did advise its clients this week that the rumored project will affect shares of AAPL as investor expectations adjust.

"We believe a car from Apple is further away than some people think (closer to 10 years away than 5 years), but the car theme will impact AAPL's multiple as investors increasingly view the opportunity as a long-term growth driver," analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note provided to AppleInsider.

Munster isn't entirely sold on the idea of Apple bringing a car to market, though he does believe the company is experimenting with one internally. If Apple were to release such a product, the analyst would expect it to focus on the luxury market of $50,000-and-up, with three core features: design, connectedness, and automation.

In his view, an "Apple Car" would likely be entirely electric, citing the company's commitment to the environment, as well as its vision to deliver future technologies earlier than other companies.

He sees particularly strong potential for an Apple-built vehicle in the U.S., where automotive ownership is saturated at nearly one car per person. To him, this highlights a "vast inefficiency" in car ownership that could make a self-driving vehicle especially appealing to consumers who want to consolidate vehicles.

"The majority of these vehicles sit idle at any given time," Munster wrote. "Autonomous vehicles should significantly help this inefficiency by allowing families to own fewer cars over the long-term by using a single vehicle."

Munster is perhaps best-known amongst Apple watchers as a longtime proponent of another rumored product that never made it to market — an Apple television set. The analyst finally abandoned those hopes in May, after reports said that Apple had internally abandoned its plans to sell a full-fledged HDTV.

Munster cited his own, squashed dreams for an Apple television in this week's note to investors.

"As we recently learned with the television, just because Apple is working on a project does not mean it will become a reality," he said. "Although the car market is much more significant than the TV market in terms of not only revenue, but societal importance, and likely more poised for meaningful disruption."

Piper Jaffray remains one of the most bullish firms regarding Apple stock, with a price target of $172 and "overweight" rating.