Thursday, July 24, 2014

Android Auto + CarPlay: Makers and Destroyers

Everyone recognizes that Google and Apple are going to change the infotainment game. There's been some distressed discussion on the potential damage that Android Auto's free software platform will do to the Tier ones by commoditizing their existing infotainment business. However, there's an industry subsegment that is going to benefit immensely from these competing consumer electronic giants that seems to be overlooked.

And that's the Aftermarket space. 

Of course, there are some interesting things going on aftermarket today independent of Apple and Google's direct influence. A new crop of startups are forging a link between the car's OBDII, your smartphone, and their cloud services. Companies like DashCarvoyant and mojio have a great opportunity to build a new category of aftermarket devices that are using your smartphone to augment your car.

But I'm really talking about the aftermarket old guard: folks like Pioneer, JVC Kenwood, Alpine, and Clarion. It hasn't been an easy run for these guys over the last few years. Functionality is continually migrating either down into the OEM infotainment or telematics systems or up into the smart phone. The aftermarket makers are continually playing catch up, making a consumer aftermarket purchase less and less likely.

Do you remember when systems like this were all the rage?
Have you seen one lately? No? Exactly.

But with Car Play and Android Auto, Apple and Google are creating an opportunity to make aftermarket not only relevant again, but potentially displace the automaker head units. Aftermarket companies have an ability to move faster and update the technology as soon as it evolves. The OEMs, no matter how fast they can trim their development lifecycle, will still be tied to releasing products coincident with vehicle shipping schedules.

Pioneer is a first mover with their CarPlay solution (shown below). But expect that all of the big aftermarket brands will offer CarPlay, Android Auto, or combined solutions in short order.

What do you think: can a revitalized aftermarket compete again in the head unit space? Will the differences between aftermarket and Tier1 head units be erased?

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