Thousands of new connected cars roll off assembly lines each day. But there are still millions of other and also older vehicles that remain unconnected even though aftermarket solutions – Internet-enabled “dongles” that plug into the onboard diagnostic (OBD) port of any car made since 1996 – have been around for a few years now.
While several platforms and products have been vying for the lead in add-on connectivity and have substantial VC backing, none have reached critical mass. But recent announcements by Vinli could help distance the Dallas-based start-up from competitors and achieve its goal of becoming a prevalent connected car platform.
The company has inked a deal with Cox Automotive to offer Vinli’s product and platform through the organization’s network of 40,000 dealers as part of a Connected Dealership Program. The installed Vinli dongle will allow Cox dealerships to keep tabs on a vehicle’s location in real time, manage maintenance and compile a driving history while it’s on the lot.
Then the dongle can do double duty after someone buys a vehicle with it installed by giving drivers access to a range of services, including in-car Wi-Fi, apps and telematics services via 4G LTE wireless service from T-Mobile. The Vinli dongle typically retails for $199, including a two-year data plan. But when Cox sells a Vinli-equipped vehicle, the device and services could be offered as standard equipment or bundled into a monthly payment.
Since Cox Automotive is involved in “three out of four vehicle transactions in some way,” president Sandy Schwartz said in a recent interview with Automotive News, the partnership with Cox could significantly expand Vinli’s footprint. And it fits well with the company’s recent pivot to primarily become a software platform, as opposed to providing an OBD dongle for only vehicle diagnostics and other connected services.
This potential for growth could also make Vinli’s platform more attractive to third-party developers who want to target a variety of vehicles models. In conjunction with the Cox announcement Vinli verified it now has the largest number of applications of any connected car platform, according to a Frost & Sullivan report. Almost 50 apps have been published on the Vinli platform this year and the company said that another 100-plus are in the pipeline.
Vinli also simultaneously announced a partnership with Meineke to make its connected car platform part of a service package provided to Meineke Rewards members starting in October. This will allow both retail and fleet customers who opt-in to get oil change reminders and the ability to schedule an appointment at the nearest Meineke location, as well as vehicle diagnostics info.
“The automotive industry is going through its most transformational phase right now,” Vinli founder and CEO Mark Haidar, said in an email, “and the cloud is going to be an important piece in this. Our focus is on Vinli to be the trusted layer in the cloud for the car. We have designed a platform that can process trillions of messages, and then quickly and securely deliver relevant vehicle data to individual drivers and businesses through our open app ecosystem. Together, with our partners, we are bringing connectivity in the car to the mainstream.”
Originally published by Forbes.com