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Saucier says drivers need TomTom's real-time traffic information (Photo: Arjen Bongard)

FRANKFURT ”“ The planned acquisition of Nokia HERE by a consortium of German premium carmakers provides a business opportunity for the map maker's biggest competitor, TomTom's new automotive boss said in an interview at the Frankfurt Auto Show last month.

"It changes the competitive landscape, because HERE is no longer just a map supplier; it's an automaker subsidiary," said Antoine Saucier, who took over as head of TomTom's automotive business in early September.

Nokia decided this summer to acquire Alcatel-Lucent in a bid to focus its core business on the telecommunications equipment market. Shortly afterwards it agreed to sell its mapping business, Nokia HERE, to BMW, Daimler and Audi.

Highly detailed digital maps are key to automakers' future, as they introduce connected features that depend on accurate location information. The world's car brands are big users of HERE mapping information, with analysts saying that roughly 80 pc of all navigation systems using HERE map data.

Many carmakers get their mapping information from more than one source and often, HERE, Google and TomTom all supply particular location data.

At Mercedes-Benz, for example, Nokia maps have been providing navigation information for more than 10 years, but Google data are also part of the offering now. Sajjad Khan, vice president, digital vehicle & mobility, at Mercedes parent company Daimler, said the different map data offer different features and augment each other. "That's why we offer a combination," he said.

The future new owners of HERE all are using TomTom services. Audi announced in May that TomTom is a strategic partner in its search for a "navigation map of the future," which will be used in its next-generation piloted driving. BMW and Mercedes and BMW are also using real-time traffic information from TomTom.

Saucier said TomTom's real-time traffic information, which it pioneered in 2007, has become a must-have for drivers on increasingly congested roads. "We clearly lead in this area and intend to keep that position," the TomTom executive said.

Saucier predicted that Audi, BMW and Mercedes will be asking themselves the question whether they will want to do without what he calls "the best traffic information" in the world, just because they own a competing provider.

And for other brands, the question is whether they want to buy services from a company that is owned by competing carmakers. Said Saucier: "For us, all this has been an opportunity to reopen the discussion with all our customers."

-By Arjen Bongard

EDITOR'S NOTE: A longer version of this story is appearing in the December edition of the automotiveIT international magazine. To subscribe, please go to: www.automotiveIT.com/subscribe.