Report: Automakers should put the brakes on in-car app hopes

Automakers may have high hopes, but a new research report proves that app stores and developers are still firmly in the driver's seat when it comes to satisfying the needs of mobile consumers.

Based on surveys of more than 2,250 people across the U.S. the U.K. and Germany, IMS Research said a majority of nearly 60 percent would prefer to get car-specific apps through an app store rather than through an automobile manufacturer's portal. They won't open up their wallets for them, either; Only 28 percent said they would pay for an in-car app. 

While most users are not willing for in-car apps, many carmakers including Ford (pictured) already offer car-related apps.
Source: Ford

"The automotive industry has struggled for several years to recreate and exploit the consumer electronic (CE) experience within the car. The stark results from this new IMS Research study show that consumer app purchases are unlikely to represent a significant revenue stream," IMS Research said. "Furthermore, more traditional routes to generating revenue through apps--such as advertising--are likely to be restricted."

There is considerable activity among carmakers in this space already. Mercedes-Benz, for example, offers its own online store that includes apps for news, weather and finding parking lots. Avis, Allstate and others, meanwhile, are offering apps for roadside assistance and insurance.

Mercedes-Benz offers its own online store that includes apps for weather and finding parking.
Source: Mercedes-Benz

Traditional developers and providers aren't standing still, however. Just a few weeks ago Samsung released Drive Link for the Galaxy S III, which offers GPS navigation and hands-free calls, among other features. Carticipate, iGasUp and Trapster are among the other popular iPhone car-related apps.

Even if there is a small minority who say they'll pay, though, that doesn't mean they actually are. According to the IMS Research report, nearly 70 percent of those surveyed have never paid for an app.

The upside for developers is that they probably have a better chance of connecting with consumers directly with in-car apps, although opportunities with carmakers aren't out of the question. For example, Ford recently said it would be offering app integration next year with its in-car telematics system, SYNC, while Mitsubishi and Agero have launched a new roadside assistance app that can be used by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone owners.

IMS suggested that looking further at the data might help developers and carmakers by identifying "correlations between certain demographics and the key questions asked in the survey," the company said. "For example: is there a key age group that should be targeted when offering downloadable automotive apps; or are consumers with higher household incomes more willing to pay for apps in their car?"

For more:
- purchase the full report

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