Will Monetizing Mobility Data in China Become a Concern for OEMs?

  • Emma Sandler
  • April 28, 2017
  • 0

As vehicles become increasingly internet-connected, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle connected, many OEMs are being asked whether the Chinese government will bar certain OEMs from profiting off of consumer data without the assistance of a Chinese internet company.

The communist Chinese government has previously banned American internet sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google from operating in the country, which has helped bolster Chinese internet companies like Renren, Weibo, and Baidu.

Baidu in particular is also exploring autonomous vehicle technology, which positions Baidu appropriately for any automakers who want to work with them in the Chinese market. During both yesterday’s Fiat Chrysler and today’s General Motors Co.’s earnings calls, the issue of the Chinese government preventing automakers from gathering and profiting off of customer data was mentioned.

“I can only tell you that there are equivalents in the Chinese market, Baidu for one, that wants to substitute the Googles of the world in that market,” said Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler, on the company’s first-quarter earnings call yesterday. “And I think we’re open enough to be able to collaborate with them. We have good contacts with them anyway.”

To that end, Fiat Chrysler — and other automakers — may have to work with Chinese internet companies in order to operate autonomous and connected vehicles, and have access to the data, in China. The expected growth of car data and shared mobility could add up to more than $1.5 trillion by 2030, according to a 2017 published report.

Meanwhile, GM has been operating its connected vehicle device OnStar in China for several years. OnStar is a subscription-based communication system that provides in-vehicle security, hands-free calling, turn-by-turn navigation, and remote diagnostics systems. When it comes to accessing and using data, GM’s position is that a customer owns his or her data that OnStar gathers, but that the automaker uses it through certain permissions granted from the customer, said Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive, on the OEM’s earnings call today.

“We do have OnStar deployed successfully in China, but we are exploring [further] how to operate in that ecosystem,” she said.

But in many ways, it is too soon to tell how a connected or autonomous vehicle from a non-Chinese automaker will operate within the legal constraints of the Chinese government. After all, the exploration of how to monetize and commercialize data gathered from a vehicle is still in the relatively early stages.

“We haven’t even started to scratch the surface of data monetization,” said Chuck Stevens, chief financial officer of GM, also on the call.

To learn more about the evolution of transportation, join us at the second annual Auto Finance Innovation 2017 conference, May 17-18 at the Hilton Bayfront in San Diego. Visit www.autofinanceinnovation.com to register or learn more. To request a media pass, contact Skylar Taylor at staylor@royalmedia.com.

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