China poses challenge for Nissan-Google partnership

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YOKOHAMA, Japan – The alliance Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi accelerates its global commitment to connectivity and mobility services through a partnership with Google in the areas of mapping, navigation and infotainment. But there is a big stumbling block along the way: China.

Google services – including Google Maps, Google Assistant and Google Play – are not available in China due to Beijing's industrial policy.

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The Google partnership, announced last month, is an important feature of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi plan to increase its offer of connectivity and overtake the rivals General Motors and Volkswagen Group.

"For China, it's not Google services," said Kal Mos, who joined the alliance as global vice president for connected vehicles in March. "It will be something different, depending on local service providers in China," he told reporters at the Nissan Motor Corp headquarters last week.

The alliance evaluates the situation in China to find an equivalent of Google services that are also available globally in other markets, he said.

Through the technological collaboration with Google, the alliance expects to provide a better user experience by installing the Android operating system from Google in the dashboard of its vehicles.

"What we do is not just stopping the Android operating system and the infotainment system in the car," said Mos. He says, he says, part of the alliance's strategy to make more app choices available to vehicle owners, just as people often use Google Maps on their iPhones.

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Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi are planning to introduce the Android-based connectivity system by 2021. As part of their mid-term business plan, the three car manufacturers also aim to have 90 percent of the alliance cars connected to key markets by 2022.

China, the world's largest car market, offers a challenge and an opportunity for the alliance, as China is leading other markets in terms of connectivity and demand for connected services, Mos said.

It is now customary to pay for virtually every transaction via smartphone. The technical trend points to a broader shift to an economy without money, and as a result Chinese car buyers increasingly expect the same connectivity in their experiences in the car.

Moss points to paying services while driving. "You could consider this as a" nice-to-have "in the US or Japan, but in China it might be a" must-have "," he said. "That's why connectivity is very critical in China."

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