Watch Out, Tesla: Apple Car Could Launch in 2023

And you thought the Apple Car was dead.

Just when it seemed like Apple was pivoting away from making an actual automobile and focusing more on the AI brains behind the ride, now comes word that the company could be launching its own vehicle within the next 5 years.

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This prediction comes from noted TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who says that the Apple Car could arrive between 2023 and 2025.

As reported by MacRumors, Kuo says that the Apple Car is the company's "next star product," which means it could have an impact on the same level as the iPhone.

MORE: Apple Working on Wild AR Windshield for Cars

Why so bullish on the Apple Car's prospects? In a research note, Kuo cites a few reasons:

1. Potentially huge replacement demands are emerging in the auto sector because it is being redefined by new technologies. The case is the same as the smartphone sector 10 years ago.

2. Apple’s leading technology advantages (e.g. AR) would redefine cars and differentiate Apple Car from peers’ products.

3. Apple’s service will grow significantly by entering the huge car finance market via Apple Car.

4. Apple can do a better integration of hardware, software, and service than current competitors in the consumer electronics sector and potential competitors in the auto sector.

Nevertheless, this is a very tall order for Apple, which presumably backed away from making a vehicle in the fall of 2016 and scaled back its ambitions. This was according to a Bloomberg report that said that hundreds of software and hardware engineers had left the company.

Then things started to pick back up just recently, with CNET reporting that former Tesla engineer Doug Field had returned to Apple. Perhaps Apple sees a bigger opportunity now for making autonomous vehicles in light of Tesla's recent production woes and the turbulence caused by Elon Musk potentially taking the company private.

Meanwhile, Apple has continued to apply for various patents, including one recent innovation that would add augmented reality capabilities to windshields. When you combine that with Apple's continued work on its own silicon for the iPhone and Apple Watch, as well as other various purpose-built chips, it's very possible that Apple now sees a path to delivering a car in the not-too-distant future.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.