DETROIT — After years as the lone holdout among major automakers in adopting smartphone integration software such as Apple CarPlay, Toyota quietly introduced the feature on the redesigned Avalon sedan at the Detroit auto show last week.
The major shift for Toyota did not garner a separate press release but rather was listed among the new features of the fifth-generation Avalon, along with Yamaha-branded wood and real aluminum trim.
CarPlay and Android Auto mirror a smartphone's applications onto a vehicle's infotainment display, allowing drivers to access features such as maps, music and messaging rather than relying on the built-in interface.
Jack Hollis, general manager for Toyota, managed to work in a shoutout from Apple's voice assistant, Siri, while presenting the Avalon.
"Jack, well done. Finally," Siri said in a dry monotone.
"Whatever," Hollis responded. "It took us a while, folks; you've all been asking for it. But it's here and our guests are going to love it."
Hollis told Automotive News that CarPlay and Amazon's Alexa voice assistant will be standard on the Avalon and future Toyota vehicles. Android Auto — for smartphones using Google software — will be next.
"Clearly CarPlay, and really any integration of technology, needs to occur in our vehicles," he said. "We start with it today."
Toyota's luxury division, Lexus, confirmed that Alexa would be integrated into its vehicles, but not CarPlay or Android Auto yet.
Hollis said the Apple and Android capability would be retrofitted onto older Toyota models, but that it would take time.
Michael Ramsey, an analyst at the Gartner consultancy, said Toyota's low-key rollout of smartphone integration is likely the result of an internal debate over sharing customer data with the tech giants.
"It is clearly a capitulation," Ramsey said. "I don't think Toyota wanted to do it. I still don't think they want to do it."
The change in attitude came from fear of losing customers, particularly younger generations who will cross cars off their shopping list that don't let them easily access their favorite phone apps, Ramsey said.