An estimated 259 million tablets will be sold globally in 2016, topping sales of traditional PCs and laptops for the first time, according to consultancy Gartner Inc. Many of those slim, handheld screens will be used as onboard entertainment for restless children in minivans or bored executives in chauffeur-driven cars.
This is a real challenge for automakers, which have sold flip-down TV screens as lucrative add-ons for decades. To protect that business -- as well as the primacy of their brands -- luxury car manufacturers are beginning to offer tablets that are more integrated with their cars than any iPad.
Audi plans to sell a tablet bearing its four-ringed logo in the redesigned Q7 crossover later this year. BMW designed a charging dock for a customized tablet into the back of its redesigned 7 series, offering the tablet as part of a $2,700 entertainment package or a $3,900 comfort package that includes massaging rear seats.
"We want to stay on the cutting edge," Jason Chan, a product planning specialist at BMW of North America, said in an interview. "With innovations continuing to improve tablets, we have to improve how our systems work in the car."