Ford is seeking to connect China’s drivers by making efforts to strike a deal with Tencent Holdings Ltd, makers of the popular app WeChat. WeChat has almost half a billion users in China, and Ford is looking to include connectivity for the app in it’s upcoming models of cars. The automotive market has been very strong in China though it has started to see a slight drop due largely to China’s declining economy. Most of the people buying cars are first-time buyers who car as much, if not more, about the technology in their car as they do the type of engine.
According to David Huang, head of Ford’s Asia Pacific connected services unit, People in China want a car that will enable them to stay connected while in their cars enabling them to stay informed as well as entertained. Huang spelled out the Ford vision for WeChat. Ford sees it’s drivers controlling WeChat functions, chosen by Tencent, through voice commands or limited button interactions. This, of course, is assuming that these interactions are deemed safe for use in a motor vehicle.
One such WeChat feature is the popular free voice messaging feature that is used instead of phone calls. Since most people want to use this feature while driving, thus having to take their eyes off the road, making it part of the driver experience through the vehicle itself would not only be safer, it would allow users to stay connected and able to communicate. General Motors has already integrated a couple of features into their cars such as the ability to text a friend the location of your vehicle, or to find a General Motors dealership. But Ford wants to take that functionality much further.
However, Ford will have some competition in the marker. Both Daimler and Nissan have shown interest in ways to include WeChat into their vehicles. The competition is also heating up for Tencent as well as Mercedes-Benz (owned by Daimler) is also considering WeChat’s competition Baidu and Alibaba Group as well. China is proving to be a hotspot for this emerging sector of the mobile apps and mobile device integration into automobiles. And of course one can not forget that Google Auto Link is also seeking to make inroads in the automotive industry. With such a large population of new drivers and the largest mobile connected population, China will become a sort of proving ground for technology companies seeking to integrate the latest mobile technology into automobiles.
As more and more people across the globe become connected, they will seek to have to connected experience across all aspects of their lives. The automotive industry is seeking to help make that connected experience a reality. And while the deal between Ford and Tencent is not fully finalized, it would appear that WeChat functionality stands a good chance at showing up in a future line of Ford Cars. This is certainly a show of things to come. With technology integration and the Internet of Things into virtually all aspects of our lives, we stand to be more connected than ever before. Who will emerge as the new connected giants? I guess we will just have to wait and see.