For many years, customers have been asking us why manufacturers haven't gotten into including dash cams at the factory level. They have done so for other accessories like backup cameras, navigation, and head-up displays but very few have really offered one as a factory installed accessory. Some dealerships, including our own partners, have taken upon themselves to sell and install aftermarket systems as a dealer installed accessory. Below are some of the obstacles that car manufacturers have to work around to release a dash cam at the factory or dealership level.
Obstacle 1: Memory Cards
There are a number of reasons why car companies might be hesitant to release a dash cam at the factory level. For starters, there is the issue of liability and warranty. A factory dash cam would need to be covered by the bumper to bumper warranty by the manufacturer which is typically between three to five years. Whereas most dash cam manufacturers only offer a 1 year warranty. In our experience, the vast majority of dash cams last well beyond the 1 year warranty but Micro SD cards have a limited life cycle and are unlikely to last much more than a year. This means that the driver needs to stay on top of the memory card status and condition, but it can certainly create a dilemma for the manufacturer if the camera doesn't record an accident due to a failed memory card.
Obstacle 2: Support
Another obstacle for car companies and dealerships may be the overall ease of use with dash cams. Higher end devices with WiFi apps and parking mode are harder to use and may be hard for sales and service staff to troubleshoot for customers. If the camera does offer parking mode, battery discharge is another concern as it does put stress on the car's battery and will cause some premature wear. Since the battery is another warrantied part of the car, they must also be mindful of covering and replacing that. Traditionally dealerships would deny warranty on batteries if a dash cam was hardwired but that wouldn't be an option with factory or dealer-installed dash cams.
Obstacle 3: Liability
There is also a matter of legality since the vehicles will be sold in different markets. In certain markets, having an LCD screen attached to the windshield can be illegal, making dash cams hard to implement at the factory level. Dash cams that are added as an aftermarket or dealer-installed accessory are a way around that obstacle as they can ensure compliance for certain jurisdictions. Aftermarket dash cams may also be sold as "for off-road use only" accessories to reduce liability.
Chevrolet Performance Data Recorder (PDR)
We've seen systems like GM's performance data recorder that offers video and data overlays that help in motorsports applications. This system records to an SD card and even offers a valet mode to record while the car is being driven by others. That being said, this system is an $1800 option on the 2018 Corvette Stingray and the actual video quality is not as good as our entry level VIOFO systems that only cost about $100. This system works great as a driver tool on a racetrack, but it's not really marketed as a tool to promote safe driving or help with insurance purposes. Instead, the emphasis is to use the recorder as a recreational/sports gadget.
BMW Advanced Car Eye
Back in 2015, BMW released their factory accessory, the BMW Advanced Car Eye which was a 2 channel system that offered parking mode recording. The price point and size were not the most appealing but it was a decent dash cam setup overall. This accessory was only offered at the dealer level and was not installed from the factory unlike GM's performance data recorder. The large LCD screen on this dash cam also made it illegal to use in certain jurisdictions. As of 2017, the Advanced Car Eye is no longer listed on BMW's online accessory store.
Toyota Genuine Dash Camera
Recently Toyota launched their own dealer installed dash cam, the Toyota Genuine Dash Camera. This is a compact wedge shaped dash cam that is more discreet than most manufacturer branded systems. It doesn't use an LCD screen which helps with compliance in various states. Instead, it offers a WiFi app (Toyota Dashcam Viewer) for setup and video downloads. It can record incidents in parking mode but just offers the front channel for recording. This option goes for $558.50 installed in Canada which is a hefty price for a 1 channel system in our opinion. The video quality from the app screenshots seem pretty average and better systems are available for the money offering more advanced features as well.
What do we recommend?
We understand that there is a demand for reliable dash cam systems but we don't think it's necessarily worth it to spend what various manufacturers are asking for their dealer-installed accessories. For the same money (or less in many cases) we can recommend better systems that have a proven track record of dependability. In contrast, although these manufacturer backed systems often carry the balance of the factory warranty, their actual reliability is unknown due to very limited market data. We also have concerns about after-sales support compared to more popular dash cams.
A model that we recommend and regularly install for dealerships is the Thinkware line of dash cams. From the entry-level Thinkware F50 to the top-of-the-line Thinkware F800 Pro, Thinkware offers a comprehensive parking mode setup that is easy to use. We also like their dash cams as they offer excellent alerts that will let the user know as soon as there are any memory card related issues. We have reliability data from thousands of Thinkware devices and recommend them highly based on an incredibly low defective ratio. Furthermore, should you have any issues with your dash cam you can contact our friendly team of experts at BlackboxMyCar as well as Thinkware's North American headquarters for help with your dash cam. We believe that these systems offer not only better video quality, but better support at a lower price point than manufacturer branded dash cam systems.