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Mobile Apps to Replace Nav Hardware in Coming Models

Chevy GoGo LinkCarmakers are always looking for new accessories they can offer to enhance the driving experience – and increase their own bottom line. But with automotive technology progressing at an ever-faster pace, some add-ons are becoming obsolete almost as soon as they’re introduced. And this is presenting a real challenge to automakers as well as the people who service them.

Case in point: In-dash navigation systems. It was only about 10 years ago that GPS navigation systems became an option for mid-range and luxury cars produced in America, Germany and Japan. Throughout the following decade, factory-installed systems competed head-to-head with cheaper portable systems produced by companies like Garmin and TomTom. But then something happened that neither side was expecting: Sophisticated navigation apps began to be offered for Apple and Android-based smartphones. Not only were these apps just as powerful as earlier systems, they cost a mere fraction of what their competition was charging.

In the last few years, demand for factory-installed GPS navigation systems has dropped dramatically as buyers rely more and more on smartphone-based apps. Now, General Motors (GM) is trying to get ahead of the trend by offering its own navigation app, GoGoLink, for just $50. The app streams navigation data through Apple and Android-based smartphones to the 7-inch display on the MyLink infotainment system now offered on many GM cars. GoGoLink will initially be offered on GM’s new Sonic and Spark models, but expect it to go fleetwide in just a few years.

According to GM sources, the lower-priced Sonic and Spark models were chosen to introduce GoGoLink because more than half their drivers, who tend to be younger, use smartphones. By contrast, only about a quarter of top-end car drivers, who tend to be older, are smartphone users. As smartphones become more popular with older drivers, look for additional automotive apps to be available as part of onboard data and entertainment systems.

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