Cars are gradually becoming control platforms or hubs for a host of infotainment systems, driven by an expectation and demand from consumers.
The explosion of mobile devices in the market place (Dixons sold five tablets a second in the week before Christmas/1.2 billion smartphones are expected to be sold this year) has led to consumers expecting, their phones and tablets to work everywhere, including their car.
Volkswagen is one manufacturer facing the challenge of constantly having to be up to speed on technological developments – and on its own admission it is a battle to just stay abreast of operating system upgrades in existing devices at the very basic level, let alone accommodating new ones designed, built and launched in a fraction of the time a manufacturer has to go through the same process with a car.
In the US, the popularity of the Beetle as a ‘lifestyle car’ for the 20-somethings that don’t have to worry about practicality, and so buy a Golf, has led to VW partnering with Apple later this year to allow the car and iPhone to link via a new app and a docking station.
It will mean the Beetle will be the first model in the VW Group in which the iPhone will become an integrated component.
Now, in Blighty, things are a little more cautious.
A VW spokesman said: “We’re considering this for the UK, and it would be largely down to customer demand whether we introduced it here.”
But the immediate feeling is that current Bluetooth connectivity in the Beetle is sufficient, offering touchscreen or voice control and connection to later model iPods and iPhones.
And some of the current functionality is not being used because of uncertainty.
There is a Bluetooth model that would allow drivers to read text messages or have text messages read out to them.
“We’re conscious of the potential backlash about teenagers driving and having anything to do with text messaging.”
The growing multitude of devices that consumers will expect to work with their car presents a challenge.
There is little to say when a customer finds out in the showroom – or after purchase – that their phone or tablet doesn’t connect in their new car.
A friend recently bought a new phone to ensure connectivity.
Although it can often be the car that gets replaced rather than a beloved ‘black mirror’, said the spokesman, despite one costing £15,000 upwards and the other several hundred.