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Audi looks to fill drivers’ wheel time with money-making services

By Barry Park, 11 May 2018 Car News

Audi looks to fill drivers’ wheel time with money-making services

The German luxury brand says its new suite of digital services will help drivers, but it will also add to the carmaker’s bank accounts

AUDI has announced plans to tap into the time owners spend sitting behind the wheel of the products it will one day build, selling them services that will also swell its ability to make money.

The carmaker announced this week that it would develop what it called an “integrated IT platform” for “vehicle connectivity and digital services”. It has flagged this will allow the carmaker to carry the driver’s in-car settings and content across to any other of the wider Volkswagen Group products they jump behind the wheel of, but also open the door to more commercial opportunities.

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“We want to have premium electric cars and digital services that are also attractive in economic terms,” Audi Finance, IT and Integrity board member Alexander Seitz told Audi’s annual general meeting. “That is our clear ambition for the mobility of the future. To that end, we are utilising [Volkswagen] Group synergies significantly more effectively and are releasing resources for strategy projects with our action and transformation plan.”

However, what that means is that Audi also plans to charge its customers for time-saving measures; think finding the nearest parking space, or pushing advertising that sells anything ranging from clothing and takeaway food to services such as dry cleaning or en-route coffee stops.

It has announced the formation of a special skunk works tasked with the job of steering the “planning, implementation and operation of digital products, and is thus establishing digital value-added organisationally at the same level as the existing core business”.

The moves will help it earn what it aims will be more than €1 billion ($A1.5 billion) in profit by 2025 – the same year it expects to be selling 800,000 hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars a year. Last year, Audi sold almost 1.9 million cars.

Audi is not alone in exploring what it can do to fill in the time drivers are stuck behind the wheel. General Motors has already proposed a similar idea; late last year the US carmaker said it would roll out software it called Marketplace that would tap into the multimedia screens of millions of cars sold in the US and allow drivers to “order food, find the closest gas station to save on fuel, and make dinner reservations on the go”.

Read next: 2018 Audi A6 revealed

“This means Marketplace gives drivers of eligible Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles the opportunity to more safely interact with a growing number of their favourite brands in retail, fuel, hospitality, food, hotel and transportation through the in-vehicle touchscreen,” it said.

It has invited retailers to jump on-board the virtual venture, even suggesting it can push their ads in front of people to gain attention.

Porsche, likewise, has hinted that it may one day start charging owners wanting to get more from their ride, suggesting it could offer temporary performance boosts if the car visits a racetrack, or even place a virtual Mark Webber in the dashboard to help the driver cut a fast lap of the circuit.

Volvo has said it will look at micropayments – small cash transactions – for some of its more popular future services, such as having a courier drop a parcel off by leaving it in the boot of the owner’s vehicle.