Turn left, and lift the bin lid. Sat nav sales fall

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The Independent Tech

Drivers have fallen out of love with the sat nav. For the first time, the amount spent on sat navs fell last year by 12 per cent to £426m, marking the beginning of the end for one of the early 21st century’s most ubiquitous gadgets.

Although the total number of units nudged up, from 2.8 million to 3 million, the rise was way below the explosive growth of the the past few years when sales doubled annually.

The recession partly caused a £47m sales drop, according to Mintel, which published the report Satellite Navigation Systems.

However anyone who thinks future cars will be free of voices stridently stipulating left or right turns will be disappointed. One reason why spending on standalone sat navs has fallen is that are carmakers are increasingly building electronic navigation into cars as standard along with MP3 players.

Another reason is that smart phones are increasingly incorporating a satellite navigation function, doing away with the need for a bespoke dashboard device.

Almost one in two Brits (49 per cent) own a satellite navigation system, according to Mintel. But drivers are reluctant to spend more than £150 on one, meaning that most models are priced between £80 and £150.

Two companies Tom Tom and Garmin have 70 per cent of sales.

Mintel said: “The economic recession has certainly had a negative impact on volume sales growth and prices. Moreover, the market is being squeezed on two sides as mobile phones are increasingly sat-nav enabled and as more new cars come with sat-nav installed as standard.

“Perhaps the greatest challenge manufacturers now face is the GPS-enabled smart phone. Handsets like the iPhone already have convergence down pat, whilst offering many of the leading sat-nav brands’ software.

“Given that smartphone penetration is expected to increase rapidly, what should the likes ofTomTom and Garmin now do?” it asked.

One way would be for makers to target women drivers because men owned most models, it suggested. Sat-navs could also function as in-car entertainment systems to keep children amused on long journeys, it added.