Ford Wants Tencent to Tailor WeChat For Vehicles in China

Feb 17, 2015 01:00 PM EST | Matt Mercuro

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Ford wants Tencent Holdings to tailor its chatting app for the automaker's vehicles in China as companies in the largest auto market in the world compete for drivers that car about high-tech options as much as they do horsepower and fuel economy.

Rival companies like Nissan and Daimler are also looking into ways that they can provide drivers safe, hands-free access to mobile apps in China, which is also home to the world's largest amount of smartphone users.

WeChat is the most popular chatting app in China, with nearly half a billion active users to date, according to Reuters.

"There's a demand from our customers," David Huang, a senior engineer who heads Ford's Asia Pacific connected services unit, to Reuters. "People want to stay connected, stay informed and stay entertained all the time, even when they're driving."

Ford has had conversations with Tencent over the possibility of putting the app in its vehicles, Huang confirmed.

Tencent has not commented publicly on the conversations yet.

Cars are becoming an important part in the technology war among giants like Google and Apple, who are looking for ways to develop a market where drivers will be online while on the road. China could be at the front line of that battle as most first-time buyers in that country also understand more about technology than they do about car specifications.

Ford is hoping to allow customers the chance to sync up their phone to the vehicle's software system and control specific WeChat functions through voice commands.

Making the app and other apps legal and safe to use while driving could help automakers gain an advantage in China, according to Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight.

"Those kind of things are the fundamental things people will consider," he said, according to Reuters.

General Motors and Tencent launched a platform in August for GM owners to use WeChat to find local dealerships or send their location to friends nearby. 

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