Closely followed Apple analyst Gene Munster said Friday that the tech giant appears to be inching toward building a car with its investment in Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing.
At face value, the $1 billion bet on the Uber rival is a sign Apple is beginning to move beyond its core consumer device market, Munster said. But he said there is "probably something bigger going on."
He noted that Baidu — the Google of China — has launched a self-driving car initiative and aims to turn it into a global business. More broadly, China is emerging as a front-runner in building autonomous cars, he said.
"I think Apple is starting to plant some of the seeds for that potential, which is consistent with a lot of people's and our belief that Apple is going to eventually have some form of a car," Munster told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
He maintained his previously stated view that a prototype could emerge by 2020 and customers may be able to order an Apple-engineered car by 2021 or 2022. He added that he trusts estimates that Apple has about 1,000 people working on the so-called Project Titan, which is believed to be a car.
However, Munster cautioned that what seem like viable Apple projects may never actually see the light of day. Last year, the analyst offered a mea culpa after The Wall Street Journal reported Apple had at least temporarily shelved its efforts to build a television. Munster had long proclaimed a TV would be a major new category for the company. Others believe Apple could still release a television.