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Cadillac 2015 ATS adds wireless phone charging for seamless experiences

Cadillac will add wireless charging of smartphones in dashboards of the 2015 ATS coupe and sedan, eliminating the need for on-board charge cords.

General Motors Co.?s luxury-vehicle arm will add the feature via Powermat, a Duracell-backed technology, which lets the phone recharge through an electromagnetic field while it sits on a rubber pad behind the car?s center instrument panel faceplate. Offering the feature allows Cadillac to target car shoppers seeking out high-tech convenience features who also typically charge their phones at least once a day.

?That nifty little cubby hole is an ideal place to store the phone,? said Roger Lanctot, associate director, global automotive practice, for Newton, MA-based Strategy Analytics.  ?It removes any temptation to actually touch or physically interact with the phone while driving.  

?To add charging just makes a whole lot of sense,? he said.  ?Of course a physical USB connection could provide charging as well, but connecting a cable to a phone is an annoying extra step that is important to remove.?

Cadillac did not respond to press inquiries.

Enhanced content
The brand is expected to announce 2015 ATS pricing by the end of this week. The car is scheduled to go on sale later this summer.

The feature is a major piece of Cadillac?s connected-car endeavors, dubbed the Cadillac User Experience (CUE). For 2015, CUE includes new enhanced content, such as a text-to-voice feature for smartphone users with Bluetooth profile, which reads incoming texts through the car's speakers. Adding CUE to the base 2014 ATS costs $1,350, according to the car-information Web site.

Including wireless charging helps Cadillac in the race among luxury automakers to offer conveniences that have become essential customer needs. For instance, the ATS? key rivals, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz do not provide a convenient smartphone stowage point, Mr. Lanctot said.
Wireless charging will become standard in Cadillac?s Escalade SUV at year?s end.

?It?s an advantage that the luxury customer will understand and that can be leveraged by dealer sales personnel,? he said.  ?I?ve seen less important things used than this in television advertising to sell cars retailing for more than $50,000.?

Unless a phone has integrated Powermat compatibility, charging an Apple iPhone 5 in the car would mean purchasing for $120 a special case that comes with an integrated backup 2,000 mAh reserve battery.

?It?s the right solution for the right customer,? Mr. Lanctot said. ?Cadillac is the right place for that.?

Besides GM, Powermat's technology has been adopted by Duracell, AT&T and Starbucks. A Powermat-type system could turn out to be like Wi-Fi, originally seen as an extra external feature but eventually offered as a built-in feature in dashboards.

No exclusive pact
Powermat?s lack of an exclusive pact with Cadillac is significant. Its charging pad will also work with Qi, a competing wireless charging protocol available on phones such as the Nokia Lumia 920, Motorola Droid Maxx, and HTC Windows 8X.

Phone charger sits behind ATS' instrument panel.

?The preferred solution is dual mode, which it sounds like this is,? Mr. Lanctot said. ?Dual mode solutions have been available in the automotive market for a couple years.

?Of course, a wireless charging solution that integrates NFC and Bluetooth for automatic pairing and smartphone connection would be an even more significant move.?
Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York.