The fact that Chevrolet has chosen the digital technology, Internet-streamed program Engadget as the place to debut its new in-vehicle telematics product, MyLink, says a lot about how important it has become for the car to be as connected as the driver. Rather than unveil the new platform at, say, an auto show or traditional press event, the company came to New York's SIR Studios where Engadget is filmed for a live and virtual audience of tech-savvy consumers.
"Two and a half years ago, only one in 10 Americans had a smartphone. By the end of 2013 there will be 1.1 billion smartphones with annual sales of 300 million units," said Micky Bly, GM's executive director of electrical architectures and infotainment engineering. "We are here to say connectivity matters and Chevy is going after it big time. Seventy percent of all new car buyers want some form of connectivity."
The new MyLink product, which will only be in Chevrolet vehicles and which the company will roll out this year in Chevrolet Volt and Equinox, connects a smartphone to the car's navigation, communications, entertainment and OnStar system.
Rick Scheidt, who became U.S. VP of Chevrolet marketing this month, says the key to MyLink is simplicity. "The message is basically you bring the smartphone, we bring the car," he says, explaining that what people want is to be able to get into their vehicle and connect their device seamlessly with the vehicle's infotainment system without having to go through a series of logic-twisting steps. But he says that's just a basic requirement now. "Simplicity will be the price of entry for automakers," he says, "because smartphones are becoming an extension of our lives."
Scheidt says Chevrolet's own research shows that telematics functionality -- platforms that connect to one's phone and link the phone's Web connection to navigation, media, telephony, and apps -- is rising quickly to the top of the consideration list." Our customer research shows what matters to today's car buyers are fuel economy, then safety, third-party endorsements, and then infotainment."
He said the company identified six kinds of users, among them tech avoiders, "whom we call 'late adopters'" said Scheidt; "navigators," who are primarily interested in directions and location-based information; and "multi-taskers."
"We intend to launch MyLink as we would a vehicle," said Scheidt. "But it will be with a more non-traditional approach with digital, social media linked to vehicle launches coming forward. We will go to key influencers, as we are today [by launching the product on Engadget].
The company has inked deals with Pandora, Gracenote and Stitcher, which streams podcasts, radio shows and news. "We wanted to not try to reinvent the ecosphere. We want do to do this through partnerships with the best suppliers," said Bly.