Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Japan and US lead in automotive telematics availability

EL SEGUNDO, USA: Japan and the United States are leading the world in terms of availability of telematics technology in cars for the 2010 model year, according to iSuppli Corp.’s Infotainment Technology Availability Calculator.

For the 2010 model year, Japan has 38.3 percent availability of telematics inside vehicles, with the United States following at 35.7 percent. The Japanese have led in telematics availability since 2006, when iSuppli began tracking such figures. And except for the 2009 model year when the United States recorded the highest availability, Japan always has been at the top of the list.

Coming in at No. 3 in 2010 is Canada, at 30.3 percent. Italy is a distant fourth at 13.8 percent, followed by the United Kingdom at 11.7 percent, France at 11.5 percent, Germany at 10.8 percent, South Korea at 6.1 percent and China at 3.7 percent.

The figure presents global telematics availability by percentage for model year 2010 vehicles by country.
Source: iSuppli, USA

Telematics refers to the solutions and applications built on top of information content flowing via wireless communication to and/or from an automobile. The most famous telematics service is General Motors’ OnStar, which supports features like accident alerts. However, telematics spans a range of features, from remote diagnosis, to the wireless integration of third-party devices, to navigation and Location Based Services (LBS) updates, to theft detection, to engine control software revisions.

iSuppli breaks the category of Information Service Connection into two fields: mobile-phone-based systems and those using embedded wireless connections.

Made in Japan
“Japan’s market stands out for its relatively high use of mobile-phone-based services compared to other countries, where embedded telematics in vehicles is usually the preferred option,” said Hitomi Larson, analyst for automotive electronics at iSuppli.

“Mobile-phone-based telematics service availability in Japan is 30.9 percent for model year 2010, compared to the 5.4 percent range for most other nations. This is because OEMs such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan provide mobile-phone-based telematics services and have expanded such services not only to high-end models but also to lower-end models.”

Likewise, Bluetooth availability is extremely high in Japan—unlike in other regions where it is just beginning to take off—at 48.4 percent for model year 2010 due to the competition among Toyota, Honda and Nissan to build up their services.

Land of mini cars
In Japan, sales of mini and compact cars are higher than those of midsize sedans. According to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association, total sales of mini cars, the largest car category in the country, amounted to more than 1.6 million in 2009.

In order to expand telematics, services must be offered to such a segment. Indeed, it is telling that mobile-phone-based telematics services have the highest availability of 41.1 percent for low-end vehicles priced at less than $20,000, compared to 36.4 percent for the mid-range—from $20,000 to $40,000—and 7.5 percent for the high-end models—more than $40,000—for 2010, according to iSuppli’s Infotainment Technology Availability Calculator.

High-end cars—low telematics penetration
The reason why high-end vehicles score the lowest in mobile-phone-based telematics service is pretty simple.

Imported luxury brands, such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, have not yet introduced any telematics services in Japan. Only the Lexus brand provides an embedded telematics service, G-Link, which launched in 2005. Users can avail of the service for free during the first three years—after which the service costs 17,000 yen every year.

Overall, the Japanese market has proven unique in that it offers a developed mobile phone-based telematics system and that greater telematics availability can be seen in lower-end models. Given that the first version of the G-Book was launched on the Will Cypha compact—a lower-priced Toyota model in 2002, with the hardware included as a standard feature—one could argue that the launch of telematics came from lower-end models.

With the pending launch of Nissan’s EV Leaf in the near future, it will be interesting to see what new features will be launched and how the embedded telematics landscape evolves in Japan.

Source: iSuppli, USA

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