In coup for Google, Renault-Nissan embraces Android infotainment

18 Sep, 2018 3:16 pm

PARIS (Reuters) – The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi carmaking alliance said on Tuesday it will use Alphabet’s Google Android operating system in future vehicles – handing a victory to the US tech giant which seeks to carve out a bigger share of the infotainment market.

Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, with combined sales of 10.6 million vehicles last year, said they will “integrate Google applications and services” including Maps and the voice-commanded Google Assistant into their cars.

The move, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, leans more heavily on big tech than many large or luxury rival carmakers have been willing to do, as they want to maintain control of customer relationships, data and potentially significant future revenue from connected services.

In return, it will bring the full clout of Android’s thousands of applications to the Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi lineups – which include significant sales of affordably priced, no-frills cars in emerging markets.

The news also raises pressure on some automotive tech suppliers such as satellite navigation specialist TomTom. Its shares plunged by nearly a quarter on the news, to 6.33 euros by 0925 GMT.

The Google partnership promises “rich user experiences that are currently available only outside the vehicle or, to a limited extent, by connecting an Android device to supported vehicles,” said the alliance’s development chief Hadi Zablit.

While many volume carmakers offer infotainment “mirroring” to pair with Apple iPhones or Android smartphones, premium rivals such as BMW and Daimler’s Mercedes are investing heavily in their own operating systems, vocal assistants and connected services.

Some smaller manufacturers such as Geely-owned  Volvo Cars have already decided to run Android Auto in future vehicles.

However, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi announcement may cause competitors to rethink costly standalone tech strategies, increasing pressure on their suppliers.

The first Android-equipped vehicles will launch in 2021, the alliance said on Tuesday, without disclosing any of the partnership’s financial terms.

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