Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche this week reaffirmed the premium car maker's commitment to new connected-vehicle technology across its product range.
"Soon you will not be able to make money anymore with cars that don't integrate customers' smartphones," Zetsche said at a technical conference hosted by Germany's auto industry association (VDA).
This is particularly true when selling cars to young customers, he said. "You don't get around the connected car."
The Daimler chief sketched a future where electric cars will find their market, but he warned that this will not happen overnight. Clever energy management is required to deal with the relatively short range provided by the current generation of electric-vehicle batteries, he said.
Connectivity will also be crucial in making electric cars work, Zetsche said. Computers will monitor battery status, navigation systems will find the next charging point, while smartphones will facilitate the charging process and the billing.
Said Zetsche: "Connectivity will make electric mobility easy and pleasant. Otherwise it won't be ready for the mass market."
Zetsche cited high potential for new Cloud-based infotainment solutions that will tackle the traditional divergence of the automotive and consumer-electronics lifecycles. "All services and apps will be continuously and automatically updated through the internet," he said.
Customers in Europe, the US and Asia are all interested in connected cars, Zetsche said. And, in a reference to growing concern over driver distraction, he noted: "The task at hand is to make connectivity in the car safe and not to forbid it."
The Daimler chief said so-called "car-to-x communication" can play a major role in future traffic management as the number of cars on the roads worldwide climbs to 4 billion by 2050.
Zetsche cited a strong need to develop more standards in the "electric Babylon" of the mobile phone market, where 2,000 different models come with a wide range of operating systems.
But he added that the high pace of innovation in the industry means that much know-how is being developed on a daily business.
And the Daimler boss expressed confidence that the potential for renewal in the auto industry is unchanged. Said Zetsche: "The only thing that can replace the car is a better car."