Their first vehicle, the Fisker Ocean SUV, is still some distance from launching, yet the in-vehicle experience is being elevated. Fisker is partnering with Sharp Corporation to develop class-leading infotainment screens for the Ocean, Project PEAR, and possibly two additional models that have not yet been announced.

Sharp Corporation is part of the Hon Hai Technology Group, better known as Foxconn, who manufactures the iPhone for Apple. Foxconn agreed to build the Ocean SUV for Fisker in the US. The collaboration with Sharp isn’t a very far reach. However, the importance placed on a partnership for infotainment screens and components reveals how crucial in-vehicle tech is to the driver experience.

Fisker’s Chairman and CEO, Henrik Fisker, said, “The nomination of Sharp brings another world-class partner into our product development and technology ecosystem. Our product development process enables us to design and develop products with high quality partners like Sharp much closer to the time of launch, which in turn enables us to deliver the latest technologies to our customers. Our collaboration with Sharp is set to create exciting new automotive display systems, featuring innovative backlight solutions to improve illumination without increasing power consumption – in addition to class-leading resolution, bezels, and design.”

Managing Officer of Sharp Corporation and President of Sharp Display Technology Corporation, Chien-Erh Wang said, “Sharp Corporation is a technology driven company and has long-term display technology vision with persistent and profound R&D. This collaboration will bring two innovative companies together to develop and deliver creative products to the markets.”

In-car HMI growing in importance

The Fisker-Sharp partnership for in-car tech shows just how important a human-machine interface (HMI) has become in the automotive industry. For vehicles sold in the US in 2020, Consumer Reports says that 76% had Apple CarPlay integrated while 69% had Android Auto. Nearly 99% had a touchscreen.

At the hub is the screen in the center stack, used for everything from HVAC controls and audio systems to navigation and phone connectivity. Having the most features and capabilities integrated into the HMI isn’t necessarily the best strategy for carmakers, but having the best and most intuitive system is. Case in point, the same Consumer Reports data shows that Toyota, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz have feature-rich HMI systems but consumers prefer those from General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis brands for ease of use, so long as the desired features are there.

An area dealerships should focus

Much of the vehicle purchase process is now based on preferences rather since quality is much closer to parity in the current auto industry. Given the choice between similarly equipped models – the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tundra, and Ram 1500, for example – reliability is much less the consideration, but how the vehicle operates and interacts is growing in importance.

Salespeople can use the in-cabin experience to highlight the HMI touchpoints hat set their brand apart. For example, Ford’s SYNC 3 system is has intuitive menus and a wonderfully capable voice-command system. Uconnect systems in the Stellantis brands have massive all-in-one screens available but the Performance Pages feature sets them apart, especially for fans of high-displacement engines.

Engine performance differences can be almost indiscernible between brands. Comfort and convenience options abound. All new cars have an HMI system. But like Fisker’s announcement that their vehicles will have crystal clear displays from Sharp, it can help to differentiate your product and build a personal connection between the shopper and the car.

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