BMW China plans to put WeChat in cars without relying on Tencent

By REUTERS | 23 April 2015

SHANGHAI: BMW AG is working to integrate Tencent Holdings' popular WeChat messaging app into its cars in China and is planning to do it in a way that would not require the Internet giant to make changes to its software, its China R&D chief said.

As the battle in the world's largest car market increasingly shifts to technology add-ons, auto executives say customers are clamouring for the app in their vehicles. WeChat, with about half a billion active monthly users, currently does not come pre-installed in cars in China.

Ford Motor Co has said it is in talks to have Tencent Holdings Ltd tailor WeChat to be used in its cars.

But BMW plans to develop a method that would circumvent the need for Tencent to make tweaks as the Chinese company had not been that receptive, Rene Wies, who oversees BMW China's R&D centre, told Reuters.

"Tencent is currently not as open as one would maybe expect, and they are in a competitive environment trying to bring new features so making any changes to the software for the car industry is not on their focus," he said in brief comments at an event held in conjunction with Shanghai autoshow.

"We have to find ways of integrating it intelligently without them having to change it." A Tencent spokeswoman declined to comment immediately.

Wies said it would likely take a year before the app, which BMW plans to have controlled by voice commands, is introduced in its cars, although that could be cut to half a year or less if Tencent was more open to tweaks.

Other automakers are also eyeing apps and online services.

In August, General Motors Co and Tencent launched a platform for GM owners to use WeChat to find a nearby dealership or send the location of their car to a friend.

Nissan Motor Co has also said it wants the app in its cars at some point. Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, is also researching how to include apps and services from Tencent and rivals Baidu Inc and Alibaba Group Holding in its cars.