What Is The Apple Car 'Intervention' Really About?

In May 2013,
Apple Inc.AAPL
CEO Tim Cook famously told
AllThingsD
about his interest in the wrist. "I think the wrist is interesting," he said. "The wrist is natural." Cook revealed the source of his interest more than 12 months later when Apple unveiled its first smartwatch. That device, officially known as the
Apple Watch
, is expected to be
very successful
. Now Cook has reportedly told
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NVFCAU
CEO Sergio Marchionne that Apple is preparing for an
intervention in the car
. "He's interested in Apple's intervention in the car, that's his role," said Marchionne, as quoted by Reuters. This is a quote that analysts, investors and Apple enthusiasts will hang on for the next several years. But what does it really mean?

Related Link: Is Apple Really Trying To Stop Spotify From Streaming Free Music?

'Appropriate Word'

Sean Udall, CIO of Quantum Trading Strategies and author of The TechStrat Report, thinks that Apple is going to be more involved in the development of software, hands-free experiences and other in-car elements. "I'm not a believer that Apple is going to get into the car-making business," Udall told Benzinga. "I would be pretty surprised if that was a market that they end up getting into. Software, ergonomics, voice activation, voice command, all that kind of stuff, I think Apple will get into in a big, big way." Udall said that "intervention" is an appropriate word. He also said that consumers do not typically get a great in-car experience unless they purchase a sports car, a luxury automobile or some other expensive high-end vehicle. He thinks Apple could help change that but noted that there aren't really any cheap cars anymore. "I can remember being able to buy a darn good car for $14,000 to $15,000," said Udall. "Now a cheap car is like $25,000, brand-new."

Setting The Tone

Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry said that
Tesla Motors Inc.TSLA
, which recently met with Marchionne, is currently setting the tone for the auto industry. "Very soon there will only be two players setting the tone, and it will be Tesla and Apple," Chowdhry told Benzinga." It is no different than what has happened in the software and [cloud] computing industry. Today the tone is being set by Amazon." Chowdhry said that the industry "grows and improves exponentially when a non-incumbent comes in." "It wasn't Oracle, IBM [or] Intel who changed the paradigm -- it was a bookseller, a retailer," he explained. "Similarly, it wasn't AT&T, Verizon, BlackBerry [or] Nokia that changed the mobile industry -- it was Apple. If somebody is looking for incumbents to redefine the industry, it is not gonna happen." Chowdhry has been extremely critical of the auto industry. He said it has not reinvented itself or shown anything significant in the last 100 years. "Tesla has already disrupted the auto industry," he added. "Only difference is, Tesla is in the industry right now, and Apple will take at least five years to come in." Before the iPhone cemented its place in mobile devices, many smartphone manufacturers thought they could build a comparable product. According to Chowdhry (and a mountain of
anecdotal evidence
), they were not successful. "They all have died, iPhone hasn't," said Chowdhry. "iPhone is growing and booming. Similarly, what do you see now? [Automakers] say, 'We'll have a Tesla killer very soon.'" Disclosure:
At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.
Posted In: AppleChryslerFiatGlobal Equities ResearchiPhoneSean UdallSergio MarchionneTeslaTrip ChowdhryTech