Nissans man with 40 phones

Nissan's 'man with 40 phones'

It just goes to show how times are changing. A new survey shows just how much our smartphones rule our lives and car buyers admit they can like everything about a new model – the styling, price, fuel economy and how it drives – but will walk out of the showroom if it doesn't synch with their mobile phone.

A study by McKinsey and Company, Connected Car: Automotive Value Chain Unbound is being used by Nissan to understand the importance of developing infotainment systems in crossovers such as the Qashqai, Juke and X-Trail. The study reveals some key traits in the attitudes of new car buyers to connectivity:

  • 28% of new car buyers prioritise car connectivity over other features, such as fuel efficiency;
  • 13% would not buy a car that's not connected to the internet;
  • 20% would switch to another car brand for better connectivity;
  • That rises to 41% for drivers who spend more than 20 hours a week in their car.

The research has led to significant investment by Nissan to make sure phones integrate seamlessly – vital as demand for data and downloads expands. Leading the European team is Patrick Keenan… known within Nissan as 'the man with 40 phones'. He said: "Today's new cars have a lifecycle of five or six years before a new version is launched, but a mobile phone will only be on the market for less than two years before it's replaced. Keeping cars and phones talking to each other is the crux of my job."

His priority is to ensure that, when it comes to consumer tech, Nissan is always one step ahead of the game. His team uses a network of industry contacts to predict future trends, as well as ensuring that the latest Nissan dashboard hardware and software works with the vast majority of existing and older handsets.

Based at Nissan's European Technical Centre in Cranfield, UK, Keenan's Patrick's desk drawers are packed with dozens of phones, which he uses to develop and fine-tune connectivity. He makes and receives hundreds of test calls a day as he works on future Nissan vehicles. "My job is to make sure anyone who walks into a Nissan showroom anywhere in Europe doesn't walk out again because a car they want to buy won't pair with their phone," he said.

Part of the future automotive landscape is Autonomous Drive. Nissan is already establishing itself as a global leader in the emerging technology, and 'ProPilot 1.0' (single-lane autonomous highway driving) will debut in Europe on the Nissan Qashqai during 2017. Outstanding connectivity and data integration are vital pieces of the jigsaw, and Keenan is part of a global team of Nissan engineers which is working on developing connected vehicle architectures that have safety and security as their top priority.

Fast facts

  • McKinsey's study says that the car of today has the computing power of 20 personal computers, features about 100 million lines of programming code, and processes up to 25 gigabytes of data an hour;
  • While automotive digital technology has traditionally focused on optimising the vehicle's internal functions, attention is now turning to developing the car's ability to connect with the outside world and enhance the in-car experience;
  • McKinsey estimates that the dramatic rise projected for vehicle connectivity will increase the value of the global market for connectivity components and services to EUR170bn by 2020 from just EUR30bn today.

Concerns – safety, privacy and paying

  • However, consumers are worried about digital safety and data privacy. An average of 37% of respondents in McKinsey's survey would not even consider a connected car;
  • Consumers also indicated limited willingness to pay for car connectivity features. McKinsey's survey found that only 35% of new car buyers said they would spend an additional US$100 for smartphone integration, and just 21% said they would be willing to pay for subscription-based connectivity services.