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Car OEM, Aftermarket Get Two-Faced

NEW YORK – The OEM and aftermarket industries are two-faced, and they’re quite happy to be that way.

Stuffing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into the same head unit makes so much sense that automakers and aftermarket suppliers are ramping up the availability of head units equipped with both technologies.

Kenwood just began shipping the $950-suggested Excelon-series DDX9902S and $900 Kenwood-series DDX9702S, joining three dual-technology Pioneer head units at MAPs of $700, $1,200 and $1,400.

Parrott is also developing a dual-technology head unit but hasn’t announced availability.

Kenwood touted the ability of its two head units to switch between connecting an iPhone or Android phone without manually changing head-unit settings or resetting the head unit, simplifying use by multiple drivers in a household who use a mix of Android and Apple phones.

Dual-technology heads make sense because of the commanding share of the smartphone market held by Apple and Android in the U.S. In January, 41.3 percent of smartphones in use by U.S. residents ages 13 and up ran iOS, and 53.2 percent ran Android, according to a comScore survey. Aftermarket suppliers want their head units to appeal to both types of consumers. Dual-technology heads also make perfect sense for the many families that use a mix of Android and iOS devices.

Automaker plans: The potential is not lost on automakers. Recently, Chevrolet said it would equip 14 2016 model-year vehicles with one or both systems. Vehicles with the 7-inch MyLink screen will get both CarPlay and Android Auto, and vehicles with the 8-inch MyLink screen will get only CarPlay early in the 2016 model year. Those heads might also get Android Auto by the end of the model year, Chevrolet said.

Cars getting both OSs include Spark, Cruze (Chevy’s best-selling passenger vehicle), Camaro, Camaro convertible, Silverado and Silverado HD. Cars getting only CarPlay at the outset are the Cruze, Malibu, Impala, Volt, Camaro, Camaro convertible, Corvette, Corvette convertible, Silverado, Silverado HD, Tahoe and Suburban.

For its part, GM’s Buick division just announced that it will add CarPlay in all 2016 Regal and LaCrosse models. Later in the model year, Android Auto capability will also be available on the models. Both technologies will be available in the vehicles’ standard-equipment radios, a spokesman told TWICE.

Hyundai offers only Android Auto on the 2015 Sonata.

As many as 40 vehicle models in model years 2016 and 2017 will come equipped with Car Play or Android Auto or both, Kenwood said.

Aftermarket advantage: Though automakers have begun to implement one or both interfaces in the same head unit, the aftermarket will enjoy years of potential sales of its own CarPlay and Android Auto products because the average age of cars on the road is more than 11 years, said Pioneer marketing VP Ted Cardenas said. That’s out of more than 230 million registered vehicles on the road, he said, underscoring the aftermarket’s potential. The automakers will also drive awareness that will in turn drive up aftermarket installations in older vehicles lacking the technologies, he and others said.

Cardenas called the CarPlay and Android Auto UIs similar, each simplifying user access to music, messaging, navigation maps, and hands-free calling while enabling voice activation of key connected-phone functions. Once a smartphone is plugged in, voice recognition and voice playback become the primary means of controlling a connected phone’s audio and entertainment, Kenwood noted.

Both technologies will broaden the aftermarket demographic beyond car audio enthusiasts, Cardenas noted. The UIs have already attracted repeat purchases by households in which one member bought a head unit that impressed other household members with its simplicity of use, he said.

Adoption by Android phone users, however, could be slower than adoption by Apple phone users, some marketers said, because Android Auto requires phones running the Android Lollipop OS, and Android OS updates are slow to come to Android devices.

As for the ability of Apple’s planned iOS9 smartphone OS to deliver wireless CarPlay connectivity via Wi-Fi, that might not be something that aftermarket suppliers will be willing to add because of cost. But the cost might not be a big deal for automakers that already offer Wi-Fi in their vehicles. “We’ll see,” said Cardenas about Pioneer’s plans for CarPlay Wi-Fi connectivity. He called it an “important feature” even though it adds to costs.