Audi along with other automakers has seen how infotainment features have risen like a rocket as consideration criteria for US luxury buyers lately. As Audi seeks to penetrate the ranks of upscale American Millennials—in general, and with its new, entry-level A3 sedan due out around the end of this year—the brand is making a new play for this crowd.
In partnership with T-Mobile, Audi is offering a new, $15-a-month data plan that will give drivers in-vehicle connectivity through the Audi Connect service, which includes access to Google Earth and Google Voice Local Search; news, weather and fuel prices; and a WiFi connection including broadband connectivity for up to eight devices in an Audi vehicle.
“We want people to be attracted by the price and to be able to keep their connection [to Audi Connect] alive continuously,” Anupam Malhotra, senior manager of Connected vehicle for Audi of America, told brandchannel. “We can ensure continuity of support. And people don’t have to deal with reminder-of-renewal e-mails or worry about whether the service is still active.”[more]
Since the introduction of Ford Sync several years ago, the robustness and simplicity of infotainment systems in vehicles has emerged as a primary driver of purchase consideration, especially among younger consumers. Last year’s customer surveys in one of J.D. Power & Associates’ awards for auto brands showed that in just one year, “audio, entertainment and navigation” in Audi vehicles became the second-most important factor for purchase, after the No. 1 feature of exterior design, Malhotra said.
At Audi, that shift got a lot of attention because the importance of infotainment leapfrogged one of the most important signatures of the Audi brand—engine performance—into the No. 2 spot.
Of course, every automaker is trying to figure how best to cater to this new reality. One factor that continues to make infotainment complicated is distracted driving. A court in California just ruled, for instance, that drivers in that state could get busted for using phone maps in addition to being banned from talking or texting on cellphones while driving.
As much as brands attempt to offer more features and functions via in-car technology in a non-intrusive way, distracted driving continues to make safe passage more difficult, especially for inexperienced teenage drivers. Several auto brands have tried to step up to this problem by sponsoring education and training programs for young drivers, such as Toyota.
If you think it’s a challenge for smartphone companies to stay ahead of their industry, just add all of that complexity unfolding in a metal box moving at 70 mph among other metal boxes that must help keep its occupants safe as well as connected. That’s what auto brands are dealing with.