MUNICH -- BMW is bringing Twitter and Facebook to the 5-series sedan as luxury auto brands play catch-up to Ford Motor Co. in the race for tech-savvy drivers.
BMW and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz are adding Internet and smartphone access to their vehicles as environmental concerns and consumer addiction to mobile devices shift the emphasis to high-tech gadgetry from horsepower.
"Mobile connectivity is playing an increasing role in all our lives," BMW sales chief Ian Robertson said at an event in Munich. "These services will continue to grow. It's a component of a competitive advantage."
Luxury automakers were slow to link their cars to the Internet because of concern about safety and allowing unfiltered data into their vehicles. The proliferation of mobile devices like Apple Inc.'s iPhone is changing that, while oil prices above $100 a barrel increases pressure on carmakers to find a selling point that isn't associated with burning fuel.
Mercedes began offering Internet access in vehicles for the first time this year with the upgraded C class and revamped SLK roadster.
BMW last month introduced a smartphone application that allows iPhone users to access playlists and browse tweets from the car's display. Audi will add real-time traffic data to its navigation service in Europe this summer.
"Luxury automakers were keen on controlling the flow of information in the car to preserve the brand experience, and that slowed down the rollout of services," said Anil Valsan, an analyst at Ernst & Young's automotive center in London. "The high-end vehicle market can't afford to lag anymore."