Much of the connected car platform development news over the past year has been dominated by Google and Apple, as many automakers discovered that getting to market correctly is as important as getting there quickly. It turns out that another behemoth development is happening on the other side of the planet that could dramatically impact how connected car platforms evolve in emerging markets and how that development can influence the space in the U.S.
Alibaba is a Chinese-owned collection of e-commerce portals that offers electronic payment and cloud computing services in a similar way as Amazon and eBay with an important distinction: Alibaba is larger than Amazon and eBay combined. And it intends on delivering a connected car by 2016.
A recently announced partnership between Alibaba and SAIC Motor is said to grow the concept of the connected car platform from its current B2C revenue-generating business model (e.g. software licensing, connected services and advertising) to a hybrid B2B model that would incorporate customer behavior and loyalty analysis, CRM-focused applications and market intelligence that would be quite valuable to automakers. Considering the business scale of Alibaba and its cloud and data analytics capabilities developed through its e-commerce business over the past 11 years, the company has not only the financial but also the practical means to accomplish this strategy.
A company with a market value of $231 billion announcing its intention to enter the market with strong partnerships, experience and the ability to acquire relevant companies as needed could quickly disrupt the connected car movement worldwide. And it could also produce a broader platform of connected services that add value to consumers while delivering analytics to automakers that allow them to better understand their customers for long-term retention as well as recurring revenue. B2C platform solutions such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay would become less relevant to automakers if they had access to a complete end-to-end value proposition such as this.
Will automakers around the world say “Open Sesame” to Alibaba?