Ford Motor, the second largest US automaker vies for increased market share in China, the world’s biggest auto market, by luring drivers that care about high tech features just the same or even more than engine figures, for example.
Now the US carmaker has tapped Tencent Holdings Ltd, the parent company of the popular WeChat chatting app, to tailor the application for the firm’s automobiles. The company is not alone in its drive, with competitors such as Daimler or Nissan also researching into ways to allow drivers a safe, hands-free access to mobile apps in China. The country is not only the world’s largest auto market, but also the home to the biggest number of smartphone users. Just as popular as WhatsApp in other parts of the world, WeChat is China’s most used chatting app, having around half a billion active monthly users. “People want to stay connected, stay informed and stay entertained all the time, even when they’re driving,” says David Huang, a senior engineer who leads Ford’s Asia Pacific connected services division. The executive said the company is currently discussing with Tencent the business part of introducing the app in Ford autos.
The auto industry has become the latest battleground for technology industry companies – from giants such as Google to unknown startups. The ultimate goal is to develop and open a market that would put drivers online even when they’re on the road. China could prove crucial to the drive, because the country still ahs numerous first-time car buyers that are also technology early adopters.