Rare is the day when you see Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi in agreement over something. It’s even rarer when all three companies pool their resources together for what they perceive to be “the better good” for the auto industry. And yet, somehow, the improbable has happened. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi have all joined forces to acquire Nokia’s mapping service, otherwise known as HERE, for a price of around €2.55 billion, or about $2.77 billion based on current exchange rates. Negotiations among the parties involved began in earnest back in August 2015 shortly after Nokia announced that it was putting the service up for sale.

The HERE mapping service supplies four out of five vehicles in the industry and is long-standing relationships with clients like Samsung, Microsoft, Bing, Amazon and Garmin. Simply put, HERE is the unquestioned market leader of this particular type of service so when Nokia put it up for sale, the three German automakers immediately pounced on the opening out of fear that a tech giant would make a play for the service and immediately monopolize the in-car mapping corner.

Reports indicate that Uber was one of the biggest competitors for the service with other unnamed parties also involved.

In the end, the trio of German brands was chosen as the buyers for HERE and the three companies have already said that other automakers are welcome to join in on the unconventional consortium to ensure that the platform remains in the auto industry.

There’s no word yet on whether other automakers are willing to join in on the ownership of HERE, but if there are, details should arrive sooner than later.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

Audi, BMW And Daimler Are Now Official Owners Of Nokia's HERE Maps
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As surprising as it was to see Mercedes, BMW, and Audi forge this unlikely partnership, it makes sense the more you think about it. Obviously, the three companies benefit from acquiring the HERE mapping service. But more than that, keeping the technology away from an “outside” ensures that, among other things, the development of autonomous vehicles isn’t disrupted.

The kinds of high-precision digital maps that HERE provides are becoming increasingly important, especially with a lot of automakers preparing their own autonomous driving technologies. A lot of companies use the HERE mapping service to accomplish this goal since the platform’s wealth of real-time information provides a strong foundation for the development of self-driving technology. In turn, this information can be shared through cloud technology and spread to all other vehicles using the same service, regardless of their make and model.

It’s a streamlined process that helps a lot of automakers and it’s one of the things that Mercedes, BMW, and Audi sought to protect when they decided to band together to purchase the HERE mapping service from Nokia.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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Press Release

Intelligent real-time maps, location-based services and highly-automated driving: the future of mobility lies in a digitised world – one that can be reached through the products and services of HERE. First-rate maps and a new understanding of location-based services are the foundation for HERE to continue on its successful growth course – as an open, independent and value creating company. This is to the benefit of the many hundreds of HERE customers from multiple industries.

AUDI AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG will provide strong support for this development as new HERE shareholders. The three premium manufacturers successfully concluded the acquisition of Nokia’s mapping and location business HERE on 4 December, 2015 after receiving approvals from all competent authorities. The new shareholder and governance structure is designed to secure HERE’s independence and allow for the seamless continuation of their day-to-day business.

HERE’s location platform is set to deliver high definition maps combined with real-time location information, providing customers with a detailed representation of the real world in real time. This is achieved through HERE’s leading mapping technology combined with countless data sources such as cars, mobile phones, the transport and logistics sector as well as infrastructure elements.

While HERE currently powers its map with data from more than 80,000 sources and billions of probe points daily, the company is actively engaged in connecting to millions of vehicles and their on-board sensors that generate information about the car’s surroundings. The more data added to the HERE platform, the better its maps, products and services become. This brings a huge benefit for all customers leading to more comfort when travelling, safer roads for everybody, less congestion and cleaner urban areas.

HERE being secured as an independent and open company creates new options to accelerate this effort with customers providing the company with huge quantities of anonymised data. In that context the currently more than 2 million connected vehicles from AUDI AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG which are capable of collecting advanced high quality location based data already today offer enormous potential to accelerate the development of HERE’s location platform. To enable HERE to further enhance its location platform, improve its products and generate new services for all customers, the three companies, together with HERE, are evaluating the benefit of providing sensor data from their fleets to HERE. All customers – automotive, enterprise, consumers – are invited to join and benefit, as such a step would make HERE even more attractive for customers and additional investors.

HERE already plays a central role in the development of highly automated driving, because no vehicle manufacturer can successfully develop this future area of mobility without high precision, up-to-date maps. Generating these maps is precisely where HERE leads the way. Four out of five new vehicles sold in Europe and North America with in-car navigation have first-rate digital maps from HERE on board. In future, maps will give vehicles the ability to effectively ‘see around corners’, enabling them to anticipate road hazards and prepare and adjust driving strategies accordingly in a way that increases driver trust.

“No one understands the potential of digital maps better than the HERE team with its 6,500 employees worldwide. The shareholders will therefore give HERE free rein in accelerating its growth strategy,” said Prof. Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG. “HERE has again and again redefined the map over the last 30 years. It is our expectation that it will continue to lead the industry in its next phase of innovation, thereby creating further value.”

“The combination of this leading map technology with data from vehicles, devices and infrastructure will give HERE and its customers a clear advantage in the development of future mobility services,” commented Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG for Development. “As more partners and customers join this model, HERE will be able to provide even better, more up-to-date maps and a precise digital real-time representation of our world of mobility.”

“Customers from the automotive industry are particularly interested in highly-automated driving. But HERE is much more than a market leader in digital maps,” explained Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. “With its high level of innovation and exceptional employees, the company has the potential to become the leading provider of technology for real-time location services in the digitised world of mobility.”

To achieve this, HERE will build on its current strengths and will add new capabilities. HERE aims to strengthen its market leadership among automotive customers and expand its consumer and enterprise businesses – through organic growth, as well as strategic partnerships and acquisitions. HERE’s aim is to create one of the world’s leading location platforms, which will combine data regarding all forms of mobility and the interfaces between our daily life and the world of digital maps.

This long-term strategy is secured through a new governance structure, safeguarded by a supervisory board that will consist of representatives of the new owners and independent, recognised industry figures. AUDI AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG do not acquire joint control of HERE and there is a clear separation between their roles as customers, suppliers and investors.

In addition, HERE will remain open to all customers, and be open to other investors who would create an even broader shareholder structure. All this ensures that HERE’s unequivocal commitment to openness and independence is firmly established. After the successful closing of this investment, the three premium manufacturers expressed special thanks to Celsius Capital, under Carlos Bhola, for supporting them from the start and achieving a successful conclusion to this investment.

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