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SBD report reveals growing market for portable route-finding technology

Satellite navigation is increasingly a ‘must-have’ option for new car buyers, but manufacturer-fitted and aftermarket equipment is facing tough new competition from cheaper route-finding functions provided by portable units, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and mobile telephones.

Meanwhile ‘off-board’ navigation systems, which require subscription and on-going payments for route planning and information services, continue to struggle to find favour with cost-conscious motorists.

These key developments are among the findings of the latest industry report on European telematics, prepared by independent technical consultants SBD.

David Bell, SBD managing director, says: "Vehicle telematics is a fast-developing area of the auto industry and one that is steadily making a bigger impact with customers. Our detailed analysis of the market and developments in technology shows that manufacturers are facing pressure to bring costs down if they are to meet the competition provided by cheaper options, such as mobile phones and PDAs."

Although PDA-based systems have only been available since 2002, SBD predicts they will claim 30% of the European navigation market in 2004, with sales in excess of one million. In response, manufacturers are expected to develop cheaper, CD-based entry-level systems, while creating more versatile and efficient equipment for the top end of the market, making greater use of touch-screen and voice recognition functionality.

Looking to the future, the report points to both embedded and off-board navigation systems potentially benefiting in five to 10 years time, when GSM and GPS systems may be fitted as standard to all vehicles to support E-call and road user charging programmes.

SBD anticipates the market will be more diverse by the end of the decade, with the arrival of the first Hard Disc Drive navigation systems. These will offer the added user benefit of operating as an on-board music server, too.

The highest take-up for manufacturer-fitted satellite navigation systems in the new car market is among premium brands, which have recorded a 20% take-up across Europe; the figures for high-volume brands are between five and eight per cent. SBD forecasts the largest growth area in the next five years will be in the medium and executive segments.

Overall, about eight per cent of new cars in Europe are ordered with navigation systems: in Germany the rate is double the European average; in the UK it is about half the average figure.

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