Weekly Brief: BMW goes global with ‘So connected, you’re free‘

Weekly Brief: BMW goes global with ‘So connected, you’re free‘

In this week’s Brief: BMW, INRIX, Volkswagen, Mojio, TomTom, Nokia, General Motors, Tesla, Consumer Reports National Research Center, GfK and Consumer Electronics Association.

Although BMW is an established telematics leader, the company has thus far refrained from making its connected services a primary selling feature. That’s soon to change as the automaker announced last week a global campaign around its web-based in-car services platform, ConnectedDrive.

The campaign will include TV spots, print ads, online short films and a based-up website, all built around the tagline “So connected, you’re free.” “The new campaign places even greater emphasis on our customers … [and features] short episodes designed to make in-car networking more tangible and easier to understand,” says Steven Althaus, head of brand management at BMW.

BMW plans to emphasize the twin pillars of its platform, BMW ConnectedDrive Services & Apps and BMW ConnectedDrive Driver Assistance. The ads will run wherever BMWs are sold around the world.

In other news, INRIX introduced a new real-time traffic app, INRIX XD Traffic, with twice as much road coverage as its previous offerings (now four million miles across 37 countries). The app includes the interesting feature of working in tandem with any map app on the market – Google Maps, MapQuest, Navigon, you name it. It is available on both iOS and Android.

INRIX also announced expanded traffic service agreements with BMW and Volkswagen, which leverage INRIX traffic services for their in-car navigation offerings. BMW plans to stretch INRIX-powered “Advanced Real-Time Traffic Information” from France, Germany and the U.K. to 12 additional European countries, while VW will integrate INRIX services into its new Car-Net navigation service for select models in 2014.

As the third quarter came to a close, personal navigation device (PND) stats continued to look grim, with TomTom announcing a 15% decline from Q3 2012, which, in turn, had seen a significant decline from Q3 2011. The company says its PND revenue was flat in Europe, given the fact that it expanded its market share to 50%, despite an overall decrease in PND market size. The American market for PNDs shrunk 28% between Q3 2012 and Q3 2013.

Nokia, meanwhile, says net sales for its HERE PND plummeted (our verb, theirs “declined”) from €265 million in Q3 2012 to €211 million for Q3 2013, a 20% drop.

General Motors faced its own Q3 plunge, as sales for the Chevy Volt declined 31.7% in October. Extended-range electric vehicles like the Volt represent an ideal market for telematics solutions, but only if EVs can find traction with general consumers. Outside of green-friendly markets like California, the Volt hasn’t yet proved itself to be a sure thing. GM shrugged off the month-to-month decline, saying sales matched internal projections.

Moving onto infotainment, infotainment systems are tough to figure out for new owners and continue to present operational challenges throughout the lifetime of a vehicle, according to a new study from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The study included nearly 12,000 ConsumerReports.org subscribers and revealed that 60% of those who owned cars equipped with infotainment systems from Cadillac, Honda, Ford and Lincoln found those systems onerous to operate. Not surprisingly, older respondents were having more difficulty – 68% of those 65 and older found infotainment taxing versus 37% of those aged 18 to 44.

Finally, another study last week from GfK and the Consumer Electronics Association suggested that Generations Y and Z are willing to pay more for advanced car technologies like connected apps and visual warning of nearby emergency vehicle activity. Roughly 70% of consumers in Generation Y (ages 25 to 34) and Generation Z (18 to 24) say they are “especially interested” in auto technology, which is significantly above the average. In contrast, Generation X (ages 35 to 44) showed average willingness to pay for new technologies, while baby boomers (45 to 64) were below average.

The challenge? Younger buyers have less money to spend on advanced solutions and believe, in general, that these features, when available, are overpriced. “We generally associate advanced technology with luxury vehicles for older buyers,” says Jeff Campana, SVP of GfK’s Automotive team. “But Generations Y and Z are already highly attuned to technology and its benefits – not just Internet access on the go, but also safety and cleanliness features. We see a clear opportunity for auto makers to engage these essential groups by bringing advanced devices and services to small cars and mid-size sedans, which are more within the grasp of young car buyers.”

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco, Consumer Telematics Show 2014 on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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