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VW's software unit Cariad launches app store to bring Spotify, TikTok and hundreds more to vehicles

Cariad-VW Group-app store

Dozens of apps -- including Spotify, Amazon Music, TikTok and gaming hubs Vector Unit and FRVR -- are headed to VW Group brands, beginning with Audi, thanks to a new app store launched by its software subsidiary Cariad.

The so-called "group application store," which was announced Wednesday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, will debut in select Audi vehicles this summer. The group application store will be equipped on 2023 model year Audi A4, A5, Q5, A6, A, A8, Q8 e-tron and the e-tron GT vehicles, according to the company.

The intent is for the group application store to stretch across VW Group's lineup, including the rest of Audi's portfolio and then onto Porsche and Volkswagen.

The group application store is integrated with Harman's so-called "ignite store," a framework for infotainment systems that makes it easier for third-party app developers to adapt content and services for automotive, while allowing VW Group to maintain control of third-party content. Control over the flow of data, particularly what third-party apps can access, has been a central issue for automakers. It's particularly critical for a company like VW Group, which sells vehicles in China, Europe and the United States — all of which have varying regulations around data.

More than two dozen apps will initially launch on the "group app store," covering audio, gaming, navigation, EV charging, news, weather and social media. Some of those include audio apps iHeart Radio, Tidal and TuneIn, charging apps Chargehub and PlugShare, the internet browser Vivaldi and point-of-interest apps Mappo, Road.Travel and Yelp. Not all of the apps in the group store will make it to every VW Group brand. Audi and Bentley brands may select different apps than Volkswagen, for instance.

Hundreds more are in the pipeline, according to Cariad CEO Dirk Hilgenberg, who contends that the app store is just the beginning for the automotive software subsidiary and its parent company. Hilgenberg also emphasized that this store will not just house third-party apps; native apps built by Cariad for VW Group brands that provide predictive maintenance information, plug and charge payments, online traffic light information and navigation services will also be included.

"The group application store is just one puzzle piece in the entire input infotainment stack, but it's a very important one," Hilgenberg told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

This puzzle piece is an important milestone for the three-year-old subsidiary, which has hired more than 6,600 software developers since its founding in 2020.

It also provides a peek at the company's upcoming "One.Infotainment" system that is being developed for the next generation of luxury and performance vehicles, including the Porsche Macan EV, a highly anticipated vehicle that has been delayed until 2024 because of problems surrounding the production of the software platform by Cariad.

Software has historically been a trouble spot for VW Group. Cariad was formed in 2020 in a bid to reverse that course and develop software-defined vehicles that not only compete with the likes of Tesla but also deliver in-car entertainment and services that generate revenue. VW Group said in 2021 that Cariad could generate as much as €1.2 trillion ($1.4 trillion) in revenue by 2030, via subscriptions and other sales.

Software 1.1 version is found in Volkswagen vehicles today. The software 1.2. platform is being developed for Audi and Porsche cars, while the 2.0 version will be an operating system designed for all VW Group brands.