An estimated 80 percent of Toyota WiLL Cypha buyers have signed up for G-Book.  Although the jury is still out, early signs indicate that the latest generation of telem" />

Issue: Feb 2003


Asia Report



New Telematics a Success in Japan

by J-REPORTS








 
An estimated 80 percent of Toyota WiLL Cypha buyers have signed up for G-Book.  
Although the jury is still out, early signs indicate that the latest generation of telematic services by Japans Big 3 carmakers has been more favorably received than their predecessors.

Toyota Motors G-Book, the most comprehensive of the systems, debuted last October on the new WiLL Cypha. Through December, an estimated 80 percent of 8,090 Cypha buyers had enrolled in the service.

Honda Motors InterNavi Premium Club, introduced last fall on the remodeled Accord, has had similar success with nearly 100 percent of domestic customers opting for car navigation (some 60 percent of the total) signing up.

Meanwhile Nissan Motors CarWings, introduced on the remodeled March last spring, is now available on the Cube, Primera, Elgrand and Fairlady Z. Nissan provided no sales results, but was encouraged by the level of interest in the service, particularly among younger drivers.

Analysts note that it is still too soon to gauge profit potential, though they also feel that Toyota, judging by the range of G-Book services, has decided such offerings will help it sell cars if not now, in the future.

In total, there are more than 40 services ranging from music and entertainment to vehicle security and e-commerce. Half are provided for free.

Included in G-Books basic package: online business, financial and general news, weather forecasts, sports scores, traffic advisories and incoming email messages, all read out load in synthesized voice. Tapping into Gazoo, a related Toyota service, G-Book provides a broad listing of hotels, restaurants, golf courses and other recreational facilities, complete with reservation procedures and fees. And in the safety field, G-Book features a mayday service that automatically alerts the G-Book center in the event of an accident or breakdown. The center, which is paid for and staffed by Toyota, then notifies the appropriate repair or emergency service.

With all these features, the main question left is whether Toyota can price G-Book at affordable levels. For the WiLL Cypha, it may have done so. However, no one believes that the $5.40 monthly fee or $55 yearly rate comes close to covering costs.

It is this concern about price that was behind the Honda and Nissan concepts. InterNavi Premium Club, successor to InterNavi, emphasizes driver aids. Included is a special route guidance system that extends beyond a single prefecture (state) and regular vehicle maintenance advisories. Like G-Book, the system allows the driver to listen to incoming e-mails.

According to Honda spokesman David Iida, Premium Club is best among the services (G-Book included) in giving a total evaluation of traffic up to the final destination, thus is quickest and most efficient. He explains that Japans VICS traffic information database currently provides advisories only within a single prefecture, thus if an individual travels from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of around 250 miles, he would not be able to plan his trip optimally as the journey would take him through five prefectures.

InterNavi Premium Club, which Honda is offering for free for the first three years, does not include an automated mayday system; the operator must inform emergency services manually. Nor does Premium Club include most of the entertainment and business-support services offered by G-Book.

Nissan opted for a simplified approach with CarWings. Kazumi Naoi, an official in Nissans telematic system engineering group, says, Too many choices complicates operations for a driver and takes away from his concentration even if menus are arranged in a single layer (i.e., requiring a single prompt). A system with fewer operations is safer.

With that in mind, the principal feature of CarWings is a driving information service called Auto DJ which offers drivers aroundthe- clock information on traffic and road conditions along with news and various leisurerelated services. All together, more than 100 services or channels are included.

Unlike G-Book, Auto DJ requires the user to prioritize and preset his or her 16 favorite services. These then are accessed through voice command No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, etc. eliminating the need for multiple prompts, an advantage over both the Toyota and Honda services.

The annual charge for CarWings is $30 and $45 depending on the capacity of the dashboard displays.

This article was provided exclusively to Automotive Industries by JREPORTS, a new information service offering in-depth coverage of automotive technology based in Tokyo. For additional information about this and other studies and prices, contact jreports@attglobal.net.

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