The dashboard and the content it delivers has become a new battleground for premium automakers. That's why it's vital that they are located close to companies such as Apple and Google, said IHS Automotive senior analyst for infotainment and telematics Jack Bergquist.
"Customers are increasingly expecting smartphone features and interface styles in their vehicle. It's gone beyond 'nice to have' and has become a key differentiator," he said. "This is one of the big reasons automakers want to be in Silicon Valley. They want to be close to the innovative businesses that can offer cross pollination."
The new Mercedes building in Sunnyvale is less than 16km from the headquarters of Google, Apple and Facebook. It is also Mercedes' global center for apps development, the company said.
In addition, the Mercedes technicians work on Internet connectivity and everything to do with how the driver interacts with the dashboard. "We haven't found anywhere like this," Kohler said of the location. "A lot of creativity comes out from here."
The desire to tap into that creativity extends to the building's open-plan interior, which was designed by the same architects who styled the workspace for companies such as Amazon and Google. The result maximizes informal communication channels, said Paolo Malabuyo, head of advanced user experience design at the center.
"It's not about the free coffee, it's about going out and talking to people on the way, 'Oh you're working on that?'," he said. The car companies realize that location is vital if you want to attract people like Malabuyo, who previously worked at Microsoft and innovative online game maker Zynga.
"You can't attract talents to any other place. You really have to be in the area where this kind of technology is created," Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth told Automotive News Europe.