Mercedes & JLR hope to gain tech edge at US west coast

Article by Anita Panait, on January 22, 2014

European premium carmakers have long acknowledged the importance of technology in their offered vehicles.  With many of the world’s best technology and r&d firms located on the United States west coast, European premium carmakers are taking their some of their development operations in the region. In November 2013, Mercedes-Benz opened a new r&d center in Silicon Valley.

At the same time, Jaguar Land Rover disclosed it would open a technology center in Portland, Oregon, referred to as the Silicon Forest. Likewise, BMW and Audi parent Volkswagen Group have existing technology centers along the so-called US "left" coast.

“We're looking for future premium entertainment and telematics solutions," Herbert Kohler, Daimler head of group research and sustainability, remarked at the opening of Mercedes' newest innovation center.

With premium carmakers finding a new battleground on dashboard and content, they trying to have their r&d centers close to tech companies like Apple and Google, according to IHS Automotive senior analyst for infotainment and telematics Jack Bergquist. "Customers are increasingly expecting smartphone features and interface styles in their vehicle.

It's gone beyond 'nice to have' and has become a key differentiator," Bergquist said. He remarked that European premium carmakers want to be close to the “innovative businesses that can offer cross pollination."

Mercedes’s r&d center in Sunnyvale is located less than 16km from the headquarters of Google, Apple and Facebook. It also serves as its global center for apps development, Mercedes said. "We haven't found anywhere like this," Kohler said of the location. "A lot of creativity comes out from here." [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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