Hyundai Inks In-Car Infotainment Deal with Microsoft

May 8, 2008
The Korean carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. has inked an expansive deal with Microsoft that will bring a new generation of in-car electronic “infotainment” technology to the cars, trucks, and crossovers sold under the Hyundai and Kia brands.

The voice-controlled technology will integrate a wide range of features, including in-car navigation, audio, Internet access, and other electronic systems. And unlike conventional in-car electronics, the technology will be primarily software, rather than hardware-based, meaning updates and additional services will be able to be programmed into vehicles once they are already on the road.

The Hyundai-Microsoft system will be an advanced version of technology already on the road in a number of Ford Motor Co. vehicles and known by the name SYNC.

Until recently, Hyundai had lagged behind many of its competitors in terms of in-car electronic systems, such as on-board navigation, but “Customers tell us they really want this technology,” noted Joel Ewanick, the South Korean automaker’s U.S. marketing chief. Hyundai had already begun adding navi and other technologies, but believes that the integrated system, with its voice control, will make it easier for consumers to use – and thus increase the “take rate,” the number of consumers willing to pay a premium for such technology.

"These new systems will redefine consumer experiences in the car," said Martin Thall, general manager of Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit, during a ceremony at Hyundai headquarters in Seoul.

The new technology will use the Microsoft Auto software platform and should make its debut on a product bound for the North American market in 2010.

Hyundai announced it will spend $165 million over the next five years to expand the availability of in-car technology in Hyundai- and Kia-branded vehicles.

Along with the new infotainment deal, Microsoft and Hyundai – along with the Institute for Information Technology Advancement – announced they will create a new automotive innovation center designed to promote opportunities for Korean software and device vendors in the global market.

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