China sits at the top of internet “connected cars” markets worldwide

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Visitors check out an Audi RV8 V10 Plus, on display at ‘Auto China 2016’, the 14th Beijing International Automobile Exhibition

China has the youngest premium car buyers in the world, and their tech-savvy demand for “connected cars”—coupled with Communist regulations—is driving international automakers into the arms of the country’s Internet giants.

Growth is slowing and competition intensifying in the world’s number one car market, but it also boasts Mercedes Benz buyers with an average age of 37, and Audi’s customers even younger at 36. In contrast, the average Mercedes buyer in the US was over 54, according to IHS Automotive.

China’s “Internet savvy” cohort is the youngest premium customer group in the world, Hubertus Troska, China chief for Mercedes’ parent Daimler, said at the Beijing Auto Show this week.

“We really want to be at the forefront of connectivity and telematics in this country, so we’re going with the best technology that we have,” he added.

Automakers are racing to offer “connected” car services, which include in-car internet access, entertainment systems, and easy integration with smartphones, traffic lights, and other vehicles.

The global market for such connected-car technologies will be worth about 123 billion euros by 2021, according to consultancy PwC. With more than 600 million smartphone users, China’s consumers particularly prize such features.

As many as 60 percent of Chinese drivers would switch car brands solely in order to have complete access to data and applications inside their vehicle, according to consultancy McKinsey, compared to only 20 percent of Germans.

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