CarPlay may cut into UConnect’s competitive advantage

UConnect has long been a competitive advantage for Chrysler, then FCA, and now (some) Stellantis vehicles; but as Apple and Google cut into the automakers’ turf, it might not be as large an advantage in the future.

UConnect has generally been the top-rated, or at least one of the top-rated, telematics systems, albeit with some growing pains from time to time. But Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have done some of the same tasks from owners’ phones, without the steep one-time costs of, say, a navigation system, or the long-term subscriptions to traffic services—services which give automakers long-term revenue after a car is sold.

Apple CarPlay

The latest generation of Apple CarPlay, expected to arrive in 2023, goes well beyond the current setup. The next-gen CarPlay can take over the car’s gauge-cluster screens as well as its telematics screen. Instrument cluster displays can include turn-by-turn instructions behind the usual gauges (and some unusual ones), with drivers being able to choose between various layouts—including brand specific options. Even climate controls, heated steering wheels and seats, and other car features can be controlled through CarPlay in this upcoming generation.

It will likely take a few years for all these features to be supported, but several major automakers (or their brands), including Honda/Acura, Ford, Audi, Nissan, Volvo, Mercedes, and Jaguar Land Rover have signed on to support the next generation CarPlay. Stellantis was notably absent from the announcement, but might be working with Apple behind the scenes while it decides which brands will support it. Stellantis does support the current version of CarPlay (and Google’s competing Android Auto).