It’ll be a beauty contest for connectivity, say BMW and SEAT

Carmakers are becoming open to setting up the sort of free-wheeling relationships normally associated with internet dating agencies in a bid to keep their connected car services up-to-date and relevant to consumers.

Leading the charge into this brave new partnering world is BMW CarData platform that offers services providers an entrée into its customers’ data. This fledgling service offers a platform in BMW products for service providers to access customers’ data where those customers want to take up a service. These third-party providers then pay monthly fees for access to the data on a sliding scale depending on the volume of customers involved.

Christian Clauss, project manager BMW CarData, told TU-Automotive: “We are testing with customers at the moment through their internal fleets. We have also completed customer clinics to test and carry out some refinements of the service.”

Of course, the success for any third-party’s offering will depend on how appealing it becomes to the car owner, said Clauss. He added: “We hope among the first will be the low hanging fruits such as pay-as-you-drive insurance where you don’t have to estimate your annual mileage the insurer just pulls out the data so you only pay for what you’ve driven.

“This will appeal to the folks who are open to technology and have smart homes and they are more likely to use these kinds of services than the more senior drivers who possibly are not as keen to use digital services at all. If the offer to the customer is really great and has a real value and benefit to them, then customers are more likely to open up. Whereas, if it’s some weird company offering a service no-one can understand, then the customer will not be going to allow them the data.”

SEAT’s head of car connectivity planning Roger Giralt, suggests it’s carmakers have yet to find the right formula for the connected car the really engage with customers. He explained: “I think the uptake of connectivity with car manufacturers has been a bit slow because at the end you have to give the customer some value that means something to them.”

He, too, sees a future where carmakers will exploit relationships with third parties in some service areas involving their products. “Naturally, there are parts of connectivity that the OEM will retain such as the experience and the uniqueness of the brand to the customer,” Giralt said. “Yet there are other services, such as infotainment ecosystems, that is very hard for an OEM to build up from scratch. Those ecosystems will be platforms that the OEM provides by itself such as the SEAT ecosystem that can be used by other providers in the market.”

However, Giralt dismisses the usual mantra that connectivity will just appeal to a younger generation of uses saying: “I don’t think this is just a generational thing. This is more about how technology is being used by a customer. So, there are certain functionalities that, no matter what age you are, you will be using – you are navigating through a smartphone as you walk through the streets and you want to also keep navigating in the car so traffic online is something of a necessity.

“However, there are other functionalities that will be appealing more you the young people who are, as a whole, demanding more connectivity. We know this because SEAT has one of the youngest customer profiles in the Volkswagen Group.

“On top of that, we want to use the technology to have a better idea of the car’s usage so the customer can get a better experience from us. Whether that’s about keeping tabs on maintenance of ensuring they have a nice experience from other services and to create an easy life for the customer.”

Yet there is a risk for third-party service providers in their carmaker relationship that the platform provider may like their service so much that it replicates it under its own branding. BMW’s Clauss admitted could be the case, saying: “Of course, this is a risk but we have our strategy and make our plans a long way in advance, we know where we’re going to invest in connected drive. Just think about Apple – did Apple suck up any apps out there, yes! Some were integrated but I don’t see this as much of a threat because it depends on how the third party would position their services.”


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