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Smart portables continue to gain on nav systems

Automotive News reports on the competition between factory installed navigation and smartphone navigation.

GPS systems
Automotive News
GPS systems
Automotive News

Suppliers of navigation systems and their automaker customers are facing a tough new competitor. And the competitor is, literally, in their pocket.

That pesky device stuck to the windshield continues to cause trouble, too.

According to a J.D. Power and Associates study, 60 percent of people with a factory-installed navigation system also own either a portable device or a smartphone with a navigation system. In both cases, most consumers prefer to use the installed navigation system.

But one in four, given a choice, ignores the installed system--and that might spell trouble for the future.

Thirty-six percent of survey respondents had both a portable navigation device--such as those from TomTom International and Garmin--and a system installed in their vehicle. And 28 percent of consumers with both say they prefer to get directions from the portable device.

The pattern is similar for users of smartphones: twenty-four percent of respondents have them, and 28 percent of those with both a smartphone and an installed system say they prefer to use the phone.

The October survey of 17,517 drivers suggests no immediate serious trouble for suppliers that provide navigation systems. The list includes Clarion, Denso, Alpine Electronics, Pioneer, Harman International Industries, Hyundai Mobis, and Delphi Automotive.

But they shouldn't be complacent, said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power. "It's important that suppliers take into account some of the features that make these systems preferable," Marshall said.

Those features include ease of use and more frequent updates for maps and points of interest.

Also, "Prices of factory-installed navigation systems need to stay competitive," Marshall said.

Clarion appears to be meeting the challenge. The Cypress, Calif., unit of the Tokyo company partnered with Ford Motor to create navigation systems for the automaker's vehicles. Several of those models led the industry in the Power study, which asked consumers to rate factory-installed navigation systems.

The top four systems in the survey were the ones in the Ford Fusion, Flex and Taurus and the Lincoln MKS. Clarion supplied all of them.

Clarion supplied 13 of the 50 vehicles with navigation systems that ranked better than the industry average. Denso and Harman, each had 11 vehicles in the top 50.

Marshall said that one of the factors in Clarion's success is its partnership with Ford.

"Clarion also supplies the Nissan Infiniti vehicles, which aren't scoring as high as the Ford vehicles but they are still doing well," he said. "But it's that true partnership that really brings it home, and it's not one supplier all by itself."

(Source: Automotive News)