Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report shares surged to a fresh record high Thursday amid reports that the world's biggest tech company is accelerating its plans to build a self-driving car, and could unveil its debut model as early as 2025.
Bloomberg News reported that the tech giant is aiming for a fully autonomous vehicle, with new division head Kevin Lynch looking for a faster-than-forecast release.
The report follows speculation that Apple, which has long been connected to an autonomous driving project, had visited automakers and suppliers in Asia, including Toyota Motor Co. (TM) - Get Toyota Motor Corp. Report, as part of its early-stage preparations.
Citigroup analyst Jim Suva argued in March that an electric car rollout could propel Apple to a $3 trillion market cap, while Wedbush analysts Dan Ives, a long-time Apple bull, told TheStreet in August that a so-called Apple Car is "not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when."
"I believe they are continuing to build a vision, the infrastructure, they are looking for partnerships on the battery side," he said "They are not going to miss out on the $5 trillion green tidal wave.”
Apple shares ended 2.85% higher on the session at $157.87 each, an all-time closing high that extends their year-to-date gain to around 22%.
Lynch, Apple's vice president of technology, was tabbed to lead Project Titan, the group's autonomous car project, in early summer. That was in addition to the hiring of BWM's Ulrich Kranz, a 30-year industry veteran who lead the German automaker's development of the i3 and i8 electric and hybrid cars.
Apple posted profits of $1.24 per share for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in September, noting that supply chain woes ripped $6 billion from sales amid the tech giant's first earnings miss in five years.
Group revenues, Apple said, rose 29% from last year to $83.4 billion, just shy of analysts' estimates of an $84.8 billion tally.
Apple's holiday quarter sales will also be hit by the chip shortage, Cook said, telling Reuters that "we're doing everything we can do to get more (chips) and also everything we can do operationally to make sure we're moving just as fast as possible."
Still, CFO Luca Maestri told investors on a conference call that December quarter sales would be "very solid", and likely hit a record high, with gross margins in the region of 41.5% to 42.5%.