Updated from July 17 with additional information.
Garmin's (GRMN) time in the sun isn't coming to an end -- it's just taking a different path, according to one analyst.
While most people know Garmin for its GPS-enabled watches, that's just a small part of the company, Tigress Financial Partners chief investment officer Ivan Feinseth told TheStreet. The company is also a big player in avionics, autopilot systems and GPS-tracking cameras that are "way better" than GoPro's (GPRO) action cameras, Feinseth said.
On Wednesday, Longbow analyst Joe Wittine upgraded Garmin to Buy from Neutral and gave it a $60 price target. He cited the company's attractive valuation and feels the company will be boosted by its "Outdoor, Aviation, and Marine segments."
If you look beneath Garmin's hood, it's positioned to play a huge role in the self-driving car explosion set to happen in the next five to ten years, Feinseth argued. Garmin can use its GPS products, cameras, and autopilot products to help traditional car manufacturers make the transition to fully autonomous vehicles.
Garmin can sell its tech to any of the 16 car manufacturers it already has partnerships with, including Suzuki (SZKMF) , Honda (HMC) , BMW (BMWYY) , Ford (F) , Toyota (TM) and Nissan (NSANY) , he pointed out.
Fully autonomous cars could still be up to a decade out, but the potential opportunity is huge. The market will reach $800 billion for autonomous cars by 2035 and will skyrocket to $7 trillion by 2050, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.
Garmin's stock is up about 5.6% year-to-date and 12% in the past year, trailing the gains in the S&P. The 12 analysts covering Garmin that were surveyed by research system FactSet have a total of 10 "hold" ratings, one "buy" and one "sell" rating on the stock as analysts wonder if the fitness wearable trend is fading. According to Bloomberg, 10 analysts have a "hold" rating on the stock, three have a "sell" rating and Feinseth and Wittine are the only analysts with a "buy" rating on the stock.
Garmin is best-known for its fitness wearables, but it has a lot more going on.
JPMorgan explained its "underweight" rating on the stock in a recent note: "We foresee continued decline in auto/PND and flattish prospects for the maturing fitness segment. Gross and operating margins are very strong, and it is difficult to envisage further expansion in margins without yielding market share."
Competitor Fitbit (FIT) lacks the diversity that Garmin has with its different products, putting it in a tough spot as investors have realized how small the fitness wearable market actually is in. The stock is down 26% year-to-date to $5.42 and shipments dropped 35% in the first quarter vs. the year ago period. In May, it was revealed that Apple (AAPL) had passed FitBit as the number one fitness wearable company worldwide with a 16% share of the market for its Apple Watch vs. Fitbit's 15.5% share.
Apple could be a future competitor for Garmin, too, considering the tech giant is also working on self-driving software that could be sold to car manufacturers. Apple CEO Tim Cook finally confirmed the project in an interview with Bloomberg in mid-June. Cook referred to Apple's car efforts, known as Project Titan, as "the mother of all AI projects." Top Apple analyst and Loup Ventures founder Gene Munster said in June that Apple's best bet for entering the self-driving car market is to become the "OS of the future of cars" by licensing its software to auto manufacturers.
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