In EU car data tussle, insurers and others brace for delays, disappointment

By Nick Carey

LONDON (Reuters) – A broad coalition of insurers, leasing companies, car repair shops and others are calling on the European Commission to propose rules for fair access to valuable vehicle data soon, fearing further delays could see the initiative shelved after European Parliament elections in 2024.

Companies in Europe and beyond are vying for control of the crown jewels of the connected car era, namely car manufacturers’ data covering everything from driving habits, to fuel consumption and tyre wear which can be used to target cash-generating services.

Although the EU is currently haggling over the Data Act, a draft law governing the use of consumer and corporate data, insurers and others are pushing for auto sector-specific regulation. A proposal is expected soon after the European Commission launched a consultation last year.

Tim Albertsen, chief executive of leasing company ALD, which relies on vehicle data for a wide range of services, said if sector-specific legislation was tabled now, it could be passed before the 2024 election.

After that there is the risk that a new commission, likely with new priorities, would put it on the backburner, potentially delaying the matter for years.

“What we understand is that in the proposal that is supposed to be tabled, there will be no sector-specific legislation, which we believe is a major problem,” said Albertsen, who earlier this month appealed directly to EU antitrust chief Margrethe¬†Vestager to support in-vehicle data regulation.

Ten industry groups also wrote to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in January urging an end to “repeated delays”.

The Commission is currently working on an impact assessment for its proposal, a spokesperson said. “At this stage we cannot prejudge the content of the final impact assessment, and consequent timeline,” they added.

A spokesperson for the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said the Data Act would guarantee fair access to car data, so “additional legislation on access to in-vehicle data is unlikely to achieve more”.

ACCESS TO DATA

Once Societe Generale unit ALD completes its purchase of Dutch rival LeasePlan, it will have a fleet of 3.3 million vehicles. The company’s car-sharing platform currently collects data via wireless devices to run diagnostics, read odometers, check fuel gauges and switch cars between users.

The leasing company also operates a “pay-how-you-drive” insurance product that rewards good driver behaviour, as does rival Arval, a unit of BNP Paribas.

“We just want the data to be made available in an economically viable way,” said Arval deputy CEO Bart Beckers, adding that companies like his are happy to pay carmakers for it.

French technology company Munic is another that fits wireless devices to fleet vehicles to collect data.

“If there’s no more access to data,” said CEO Aaron Solomon, “we’ll have to find a different business”.

But a spokesman for BMW said the carmaker has had a system in place since 2018 allowing customers to share data with any third party.

“Unfortunately, many players who are arguing publicly that they need access to in-vehicle data never tried to use the system,” he said.

Meanwhile, automakers such as world No. 3 Stellantis have their own big data plans. It expects to generate 20 billion euros ($21.4 billion) annually by 2030 from software products and subscription services.

Leaving data in the hands of the big vehicle manufacturers “does not enhance any competition”, said Christoph Lauterwasser, managing director of the Allianz Center for Technology, a research institute owned by Allianz.

Michelin Executive Vice President Lorraine Frega said a wide variety of startups have sprung up to offer services using car data, but those small companies cannot raise capital until there is clarity from the European Commission.

“We are very concerned,” Frega said. “Just delaying in itself is really harmful to the overall economy as well.”

($1 = 0.9335 euro)

(Additional reporting by Victoria Waldersee in Berlin; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

tagreuters.com2023binary_LYNXMPEJ1F06C-VIEWIMAGE