Analyst Says It's Time for Tesla to Start Worrying About Apple's Car Ambitions

  • Morgan Stanley analyst doubles down on competition fears
  • Jonas cites Apple CEO’s candid comments about auto sector

Cook Says Apple Is Focusing on Autonomous Car Systems

Tesla Inc. may be facing more competition from other tech giants than initially feared, and one of the analysts that had been most bullish on the firm is growing increasingly worried.

Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas, who downgraded shares of Tesla in mid-May on risk of competition from the world’s largest tech companies, is reiterating his concerns after hearing Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook outline the iPhone maker’s plans.

“In a recent Bloomberg interview, Apple’s CEO made some of the most candid and direct statements on the company’s position on disrupting autos and transport,” Jonas said in a note to clients on Wednesday. “Tesla investors must prepare for serious competition for talent and investment capital in this market.”  

In the interview, Cook said that autonomous systems were a key focus of the firm, adding that “it’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

The race to the top in the future of the automotive industry has a slew of technology companies pushing into the sectors, with firms such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit signing partnerships with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Lyft Inc. to develop the technology, and carmakers from BMW AG to General Motors Co. opening offices in Silicon Valley. 

Apple had initially been seeking to build its own car, but switched gears and is now prioritizing the underlying technology for autonomous driving, Bloomberg News reported. The company had hired more than 1,000 engineers to work on Project Titan, as the car team is known internally, after it started in 2014.

Jonas also worries that this is merely the first step for Apple. “We believe Apple will eventually move beyond just software into designing a full car and/or launching a platform for third party services and content over time. This is because Apple argues it is most successful when it vertically integrates in a market, controlling the hardware and software and creating a platform,” he concluded.

Tesla has eight buys, 10 holds, six sells with average price target of $300, or about 20 percent lower than yesterday’s close. In January 2016, Jonas had a price target of $450. He’s revised that to $305.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE