Teens’ interest in cars is declining
Medford-based Agero, a leader in delivering cloud-based content to vehicles, has invested in M-Way Solutions of Stuttgart, Germany, a successful provider of mobile software and services to smartphones and tablets.
The partnership will enhance Agero’s ability to adapt that technology to deliver coming generations of web-based content or apps into “connected” vehicles that are tailored to mitigate driver distraction.
Agero—a Latin derivative for “to lead, drive, and move forward”— started as Cross-Country Automotive Services, an auto club, in the 1960s, the creation of Boston entrepreneur SidneyWolk.
It’s now grown into three market verticals, the original roadside assistance, an insurance claims management service, and a provider of integrated connectivity services. The connectivity connection was strengthened in 2008 with the acquisition of ATX, a Dallas-based connected-services multinational company with services similar to OnStar, and again with the M-Way collaboration.
The numbers have been impressive. Agero services 75 million people annually and the connectivity arm is projected to do $550 million in 2012 revenues of the overall organization’s $750 million.
If you drive a BMW, Lexus, Infiniti,Toyota, or Hyundai, chances are you’re using Agero products.
Because most new vehicles are connected, GaryWallace, vice president of Agero, says that the next generations of technology actually will offer opportunities for the company’s three arms to overlap, since the car can notify the Agero call center about an airbag deployment to summon emergency responders. It also can automatically notify the vehicle owner’s auto insurer and roadside assistance provider.
As for roadside assistance,“If consumers today can monitor the progress of their pizza delivery on their smartphone, we want to be able to use the same technology to inform a distressed driver in a disabled vehicle exactly when the tow truck will arrive and what the truck and driver will look like,”saysWallace.
A Football Coup
Chevrolet has signed a four-year agreement with Liverpool Football Club (owned by John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group) to be the club’s Official Automotive Partner. Chevy also was the official sponsor for Liverpool’s preseason tour, with games this month in Toronto, Boston, and Baltimore. It’s a partnership that makes sense because both the football club and Chevrolet are global brands.
Trend: Fewer Teens Driving
Over the years, I’ve had colleagues who had their driver’s licenses but chose not to drive, preferring to take cabs and public transportation to dealing with the headaches of owning an automobile in the city.
Now, the younger generation seems to be becoming increasingly ambivalent towards cars and driving, ignoring what had been a teenager’s rite of passage for their parents.
A University of Michigan study released earlier this month found that only 6 in 10 Americans between ages 17 to 19 have a driver’s license. Thirty years ago, the number was 8 in 10. If my math is correct, that’s a 25 percent decrease.
The numbers were crunched by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the university’s Transportation Research Institute. They show that, in 2010, only 70 percent of 19-year-olds, 61 percent of 18-year-olds, and 46 percent of 17-year-olds had licenses.
Sivak feels the share of licensed drivers has fallen in most age groups because of the increasing popularity of the internet.
“Overall, the observed decrease in driver licensing is consistent with the continued increase in internet usage,” says Sivak. “In our previous research, we found that the percentage of young drivers was inversely related to the proportion of internet users. Virtual contact, through electronic means, reduces the need for actual contact.”
A Few Tips of the Hat
Most days, three hours at the Registry of Motor Vehicles is a hassle that’s best avoided, especially when you add in another couple of hours of drive time for two trips to the nearest branch office. But not this time. Here’s a tip of the cap to Kerry and Susan at the Haverhill branch and Betsy at the title division in Boston for unscrambling not one but two problems with a VIN number on my registration. The first was a dropped digit when the registration was issued and the second was an“O”instead of a zero. They say there are no Os in aVIN but plenty of zeroes. …Congratulations to Peter Catanese III, internet parts manager at Central Chrysler-Jeep- Dodge-Ram in Norwood. He was recognized by Automotive News on its“40 Under 40”list of up-and-comers in the industry. Catanese developed the dealership’s JustForJeeps.com website that has made the family’s dealership a go-to source for Mopar parts worldwide. The site draws approximately 3,000 visitors per day and ships worldwide with annual sales approaching $2 million.…Acton-based Haartz, the world’s No. 1 manufacturer of convertible top material and a leading manufacturer of interior trim, reportedly will be providing a premium soft top for all 2013 Wrangler models, including a better offering for the Unlimited, which also will have a rear spring assist.
Bill Griffith can be reached at WGriffith@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter