VW to refresh van lineup with new telematics offerings

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Buying a new commercial van from Volkswagon in the near future will be very much different than it was just a few weeks ago, as the entire lineup is being refreshed as we speak. One of the new additions of the 2015 model, is that it will come pre-equipped with an RAC/VW developed telematics solution, that for a small fee each month can provide feedback on how the driver is performing, as well as sending tracking data to a centralised location for fleet managers to make use of.

On top of knowing where drivers are at all times however, the telematics device will also tap into vehicle diagnostics, which can then let a fleet manager know if a vehicle suffers a particular fault or may be in need of a service. This way any problematic vans can be be brought in before something catastrophic goes wrong with it. Along with this “Driving Concierge,” feature, the back-end application will also let asset managers check in on the driving style of the vehicle operator, as well as monitoring things like fuel economy to see if any additional training for the driver is needed.

The entire fleet of vehicles and their operators will be ranked over time, to show which are the best at saving the business fuel and cutting back on vehicle wear and who may need to be pulled up to improve their habits.

Individuals and businesses will need to pay for this service. AutoExpress has it at £12.50 per month with an ongoing subscription, but the initial device won’t cost anything since it will come with new vehicles. However, VW is also offering a scheme where it retroactively fits the telematics devices to older VW vans too, thereby letting entire fleets come onboard with the system.

Of course there is a lot of competition for telematics these days, whether it’s from dedicated fleet management companies, or from insurers that want to have a better idea of the risk each driver has of getting into an accident and costing them money. VW’s scheme isn’t the cheapest, or the most comprehensive, though the fact that it comes pre-installed in new vans will be a big selling point for the auto-maker.

Still, according to some statistics the penetration of telematics in commercial vehicles is as low as 25 per cent, so there is a lot of room for new companies to get in on the action, as long as they can create their own market, which potentially a firm as big as VW Audi could do. However it will need to continue to innovate on its telematics offerings in order to maintain that customer base otherwise before long, when the benefits of more accurate and more featureful telematics systems become apparent to VW van owners, the van-maker could find its customers going elsewhere.

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.