Mitsubishi Motors signs Israeli startup while Japan catches up with connected cars

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has registered with the Israeli startup Otonomo for the car data market. Japanese automakers are trying to beat competitors in the U.S. and Europe to offer vehicle-related services.

Mitsubishi Motors is the first Japanese automaker to join a platform like Otonomo's. He has access to a network of around 100 retailers, insurers and others who pay for the data and offer sales-generating services such as parking apps and car washes on demand and refueling on a subscription basis.

The initiative will be launched this year in the US and Europe, with Japan to follow later, the companies said. They did not disclose the deal's financial terms.

According to the consulting company SBD Automotive, the Japanese only offered 30 percent of the vehicles sold last year with embedded connectivity. It was more than half in the United States and Europe.

It could be an expensive missed opportunity. McKinsey & Co. predicts that the vehicle data market will grow to as much as $ 750 billion by 2030.

In addition, Japanese brands run the risk of losing contact with an increasingly connected consumer worldwide.

"It's about understanding customer behavior: how they use their cars and how they service them," said Mo Al-Bodour, a Detroit-based analyst at SBD, via email.

"This has implications that range from current customer relationships to the design of future products."

So far, other Japanese manufacturers have focused on building their own platforms.

Toyota has a subscription-based service called T-Connect that provides real-time traffic information and links to a human operator for help with restaurant reservations or accident support.

Honda has developed a similar offering called Honda Connected, but has partnered with Alibaba in China to develop specific connected services for this market.

What Otonomo offers is a way to clean and standardize the data coming from the vehicles and to ensure that their use complies with the data protection laws of the respective region.

The four-year-old startup based in Tel Aviv also maintains partnerships with Daimler and BMW. According to Ben Volkow, co-founder and CEO, further collaborations with the automakers will be announced later this year.

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland; editing by Richard Pullin)