The OS Car Wars

If the reports are true, within the next five years you may be able to add your car to your portfolio of Apple devices. Even if the rumors never come to fruition, you can have Apple integrated into your car – regardless of the make. Onstage at the recent Apple event, Tim Cook announced that every manufacturer has committed to including CarPlay in future models. In fact, in 2015, 40 models will roll off the line with built-in CarPlay functionality.

In an effort to understand how significant this is for new car buyers, our team conducted research that suggests the phone is a major decision factor for the next car key in your pocket.

When surveyed on the most important technology feature when considering a car purchase today, phone OS is on par with well-established functions such as blind spot warning, collision warning, and built-in GPS. This indicates that compatibility with mobile device is already an important criterion. And it’s a safe assumption to expect these numbers will increase as phone dependency and app utility rise over time.

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Business Insider projects that by 2020 there will be 220 million connected cars on the road, with roughly 75 percent of all cars shipped in that year considered connected. Our own forecast of connected car growth is even more optimistic for the future ahead. Our models indicate we will eclipse the Business Insider estimates of 220 million by 2018, two full years ahead of its approximations. By 2020, we predict more than 350 million connected cars on the road, with connected cars accounting for 96 percent of new car sales that year.

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What’s important now is how dramatically the importance of OS increases when you are more likely in the market for a car at that time. Out of those who will “definitely” buy a new vehicle in 2015, more than 70 percent agree that OS compatibility is important or critical – compared to only around 30 percent of those not in the market for a new car. Over time, as new car buyers enter the market, we’ll progressively see more interest, which will drive huge growth in the category.

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If consumers already consider the connectivity of their car with their previously selected mobile ecosystem, it suggests massive opportunity for the major players in both spaces. The current market leader in connected device technology is BlackBerry – the one-time consumer and enterprise mobile hardware developer with a market share of more than 50 percent today. Yet, Apple, Microsoft, and Google’s Android have all sought to make inroads to this space through lucrative deals with car manufacturers. And, of those companies, only one is shown to have a consumer loyalty that suggests the ability to tip future buying decisions.

Based on our survey responses, Apple mobile customers are slightly more likely (7 percent) to care about phone OS compatibility than Android users. Whatever the reason for the association of importance, it is noteworthy as these players fight for relevancy as a personal operating system. While auto manufacturers consider their alliances, and OS continues to be a key differentiator, it merits watching how consumers drive future sales as a result.

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