The in-vehicle telematics market in China is booming right now, according to IMS Research, but the next few years will be critical for future development of the market.
There are three main types of telematics systems in China – standalone systems like GM’s OnStar, embedded systems such as Toyota’s G-Book, and connected systems like Ford’s SYNC. Connected systems are the newest in the Chinese market, but they are forecast to grow more quickly than standalone or embedded systems due to their relatively low cost and the bridge they offer to connect smart phones to cars, which younger drivers value highly.
“Besides the three major global brands (OnStar, G-Book, and SYNC), it is encouraging to see some local Chinese telematics systems popping up,” says Michael Liu, market analyst with IMS Research’s Automotive and Transport Group. “For example, (SAIC’s) iVoka is actually like the early stage of Apple’s Siri. You can ask it to do things like make hands-free calls, send messages, provide navigation, check for weather, or even just talk with you for fun. But the system is far from mature; lots of things need to be improved in the near future. For example, you need to wait for at least 2 seconds before iVoka comes back to any of your inputs. This wait time will be too long for most people, especially young drivers. That said, it’s still a good start and is pointing to the right direction for future development.”
Although in-vehicle telematics seems quite appealing to Chinese consumers, IMS, recently acquired by IHS Inc., believes that some critical factors are needed for significant market growth. One is to find successful business models. The percentage of OnStar and G-Book subscribers who renew the service is very low, according to the research firm, which makes it hard for the services to be profitable. Vehicle manufacturers, telematics service providers and telecommunications companies have to find the right balance.
Another key factor is the need to provide useful functions that will appeal to drivers. Navigation with real-time traffic is one, but more are needed. Drivers will only be willing to pay for functions they use frequently.
IMS is engaged in an ongoing research project, “OE In-Vehicle Telematics – China – 2012”.