Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius has poured cold water on the prospect of the next generation of Apple CarPlay coming to its cars, despite the fact it was included in a WWDC presentation where it was unveiled.
Källenius appeared on Decoder to discuss the future of the automotive industry, where the discussion eventually turned to Apple’s newly-announced CarPlay that was presented at WWDC 2022. When asked if Mercedes-Benz would let Apple “plug in a phone and take over the entire user interface of the car” as intended, Källenius was coy in his answer stating:
I think Mercedes customers expect access to a holistic Mercedes-Benz universe. It is not just about the physical product; it is also about the digital interface. You have your Mercedes me ID, and with that, you can turn on the air conditioning or the heating in the car from the sofa in your living room. You even have things like urban guard, where you use the sensors of the car to check if your car is safe. You could maybe even check if your driveway is safe in the future. There are so many aspects, so many domains, to autonomous drive and so on. I don’t think that you can rip out one piece of it and just say, “Here’s an island sitting on its own. The mainland of the car and all the other islands around the car are not integrated into that.”
He went on to note that CarPlay was already available in its cars but that he doubted it would ever cover “all the functions of the car” and that “if you want a holistic and coherent experience in that car, you are going to stick to the Mercedes ecosystem.” Host Nilay Patel turned the screw:
Q: Let me ask that question more directly. Apple wants to create a version of CarPlay where you plug in the phone and it takes over all the screens. Are you going to let them do that?
A: I watched that video. We will see what we do with them. We will have to discuss that. Our clear goal is to have a Mercedes experience through and through.
Naturally, Patel asked if Mercedes was surprised to see its logo on-screen at WWDC, to which Källenius said no because “we have a very good relationship” with Apple. As Patel noted, this is an extremely strange admission from Mercedes given Apple positioned Mercedes alongside other automakers who were “excited to bring this new vision of CarPlay to customers, clearly implying Mercedes would indeed take part. You can see the offending slide below:
Patel pressed him on this:
Q: You have now said pretty directly that you are not going to let Apple take over the instrument cluster and all the other screens. So how do you see that tension playing out? How do those conversations with Apple and Google go?
A: I don’t want to jump the gun here. It is something we have to sit down and discuss with them, so I can only speak for what we are doing. Our goal is clear with MBOS and the infotainment domain, which again, is one of several domains, including the instrument cluster. Don’t worry, you will have a true Mercedes luxury feel in every Mercedes in the future.
While there may not be too much to read into Källenius’ comments, they could reveal that Apple and Mercedes are on very different wavelengths about the future of CarPlay and that the two may have diverging expectations about how feasible it would be for automakers to support the change. How could it be that Apple has announced Mercedes as one of a number of excited CarPlay partners if Mercedes itself hasn’t yet committed to this and “will have to discuss that.” Källenius’ comments clearly reveal Mercedes has not yet committed to Apple CarPlay in the way Apple presented at WWDC.