Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is betting on a service that helps companies including Ford and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz provide live, in-car support to drivers.
Berkshire agreed to buy the assets of MyAssist Inc., a concierge and personal-assistant service, from Noel Group, according to a statement today from a unit of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based company. John Noel, founder and chief executive officer of Noel, will continue to lead the company.
“We do a branded product that allows our business customers to, in essence, be the superhero for their customers in solving day-to-day problems,” Noel said in an interview. For Mercedes-Benz, MyAssist provides personalized trip assistance from human attendants using “location-aware technology” from Verizon Communications Inc.
Among MyAssist’s offerings is a call center staffed by operators. As computing power and connectivity increase, automakers are moving away from human-concierge services and toward technology that draws information into the car from the cloud, said Mark Boyadjis, an IHS Automotive analyst based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
Automakers are racing to create connected cars as consumers increasingly demand their vehicles keep them constantly linked to their digital lives. In-vehicle technology is the top selling point for 39 % of car buyers today – more than twice the 14 % who say their first consideration is traditional performance measures like horsepower and speed – according to a December study by consulting firm Accenture.