When Panasonic Automotive and Aupeo said in January that they were starting a “strategic collaboration” around in-car infotainment services, it now seems they were just being coy. As it turns out, Panasonic has bought the Berlin-based Pandora competitor outright.
The deal closed in late March, Aupeo CEO Holger Weiss – who will continue to head up his 20-person team – told me. It’s big news for the connected car industry, but also for Berlin, a city whose startup scene has been eagerly awaiting the validation of a major exit for the last couple of years. Frustratingly, though, the financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
According to Weiss, the deal will see both parties extend their reach:
“They’re buying technology, customer relationships and an experienced and gifted team. We’re already in Mercedes, BMW and all those other guys, and have been focusing strongly in the last 12-18 months on the connected car.
“Panasonic understands strategically that the internet-enabling of cars will [change] the use of the internet in the car fundamentally. You have the possibility of taking your smartphone and connecting it with the car, but the level of integration and according technology that are required to provide stable streaming while driving at 180mph is something a regular consumer-focused service cannot do.”
The deal is reminiscent of Harman’s 2010 purchase of Aha Radio, whose in-car Aha platform is found these days in vehicles from Subaru, Honda and Acura. Aupeo, meanwhile, has partnerships with Mercedes, BMW, Mini and Pioneer for its platform, which covers news and weather, radio, podcasts and audiobooks, and also uses text-to-speech technology. As for Panasonic, that company is already involved in Chrysler’s Uconnect platform — as is Harman, albeit as developer of a hands-free communication system — and Chevrolet’s MyLink.
The January announcement said Panasonic and Aupeo would “create customized cloud-based solutions, optimized for the automotive market”, and it now looks like a lot of that work will happen in Berlin.
According to Weiss, Aupeo will remain in Berlin as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America, and will keep its name (and consumer apps and services). Berlin will become the “development hub” for Panasonic’s connected services strategy, he added.