As a little girl, pretty much from the time I could dress myself, I was obsessed with fashion and haute couture. (I know, I know … you are wondering what the heck this has to do with auto parts, but stay with me…). In the 80s, there was a show on CNN called “Style with Elsa Klensch.” I watched it religiously, transfixed as Klensch gave recaps of the latest runway shows from such avant garde designers as Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galiano and Vivienne Westwood.
It didn’t take long for me to learn that when it came to high design, the Europeans were always ahead of the curve compared to the U.S. marketplace. The fashions overseas that looked so otherworldly and outrageous to me as I watched “Style,” on Saturday mornings would inevitably would make their way onto the streets and fashion magazines of America a year or two later. It became a rather predictable pattern, where I could recall which styles the designers had introduced two “seasons” before as I watched them walk by me at the mall several seasons later. Some of them, of course, just didn’t quite seem to work for the U.S. market, forgotten forever after those 15 minutes of fame on “Style.”
It occurred to me that the automotive aftermarket is a lot like the fashion industry in this regard. Often, some new product or new technology when first introduced can seem so high-concept and innovative it couldn’t possibly have mass-market appeal. One region of the world, one company or one product category may take the lead on a certain innovation and hold that coveted spot for a few months, only to find five competitors on their heels a few months later.
Take telematics for example.
The word telematics didn’t even really make it into the U.S. automotive aftermarket’s lexicon until the early- to mid-2000s, outside of GM’s OnStar, which hit the market 1995. Yet, remote vehicle diagnostics were already being actively utilized in European vehicle workshops years before. However, from about 2008 on, “telematics” became a recurring presentation topic at such major industry events as the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium, touting the brave new world of automotive systems. Questions were raised as to whether the independent service sector was prepared to handle the new, different and complex repair issues that telematics and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) safety systems could bring with them. Telematics were going to take over the world, the experts predicted. Some forms have – GPS for example – and some forms haven’t quite taken hold just yet (i.e. driverless cars.)
We recently posted a report on our sister site, aftermarketNews.com, from Juniper Research, showing that the U.S. remains the leading geographical region for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The report stated that connected cars will represent 20 percent, or one in five, of the of the passenger vehicles on the road globally by 2019. According to the study, the U.S. remains the leading geographical region for M2M, ahead of Western Europe. However, with the explosive growth of China’s vehicle population, and as its data infrastructure begins to take shape, it is becoming an increasingly important market as well.
Now that vehicle telematics truly has a foothold in so many major markets, next come the rules and regulations. We move from design and innovation to real-world application and with that come humans and how they interact with the technology. Stay tuned later this week as we take a look at the legislative, safety and privacy concerns that are emerging across the globe as telematics become increasingly commonplace in today’s vehicles.