Daimler Financial Services has launched aftermarket hardware to connect fleet cars of any brand, setting the OEM up for expansion in telematics beyond its own Mercedes-Benz nameplate.
The retrofit product, marketed through the captive’s Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services division, allows fleet operators to integrate older and non-connected cars into a fleet’s network.
The hardware, priced at €179 (£159) without installation, comes in the form of a box to be fitted in the engine compartment. A spokesperson for Daimler Financial Services said the hardware is fitted onto the car’s battery, and is completely autonomous, meaning it does not need additional cabling.
Daimler said “at the moment” the product would be available in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. In the future, it is likely that OEM will market the hardware across all countries where Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services operates, including the UK.
“Our retrofit multi-brand solution is an important part of our product portfolio, as few fleets are made up of just one vehicle brand,” said Christoph Ludewig, managing director of the Connectivity Services unit.
The aftermarket hardware move is a striking departure for the OEM, which like most carmakers had so far focused on pre-installing connectivity features on the factory floor. Ford also plans to market an aftermarket connectivity device in the UK and Germany next year, compatible with Ford vehicles going back 2012. However, a spokesperson for the American company said there are currently no plans to make the device compatible with other brands.
Daimler’s digital division has now put itself in more direct competition with the Netherlands’ TomTom, whose share price took a hit on Tuesday when the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance opted for Google’s Android system to back in-car connected services.
The aftermarket connected car product complements the Daimler captive’s expansion in “brand-agnostic” fleet and mobility services, which took a leap forward with the acquisition of fleet lessor Athlon from DLL at the end of 2016.
Additionally, Daimler Financial Services last week became an investor in Volkswagen’s Heycar, a retail and financing platform for used cars of any brand.