Tweddle: Managing Auto Industry Info Since the Days of Movable Type

11/25/13Follow @XconomyDET

When I first met the guys from Tweddle, it was at a global telematics conference in June. Perhaps I had been spending too much time with tech startups, because I assumed Tweddle was one of those cutesy software startup names.

Andrew Tweddle, president and CEO of Tweddle Group, quickly pointed out that it was actually his family name. It turns out Tweddle is a company that has been involved with automotive technology for six decades, even as the technology surrounding the industry has changed rapidly.

“My grandfather started it as a humble printing company in 1954,” Tweddle says, explaining that the company used to strictly print catalogs and manuals. “They would sit in the lobbies of the [car manufacturers] and wait for the purchasing officer, and then they’d run back here and print.”

In fact, a printing press still sits at the company’s global headquarters in Clinton Township, MI. But in 1967, when Andrew Tweddle’s grandfather passed away and his father took over the company, the family embraced computerized typesetting even though most of their competitors were still using hot metal typesetting.

“It was a significant investment, especially for a small business,” Tweddle says. “But the decision exemplifies our strategy, which is always using new technology.”

Today, Tweddle is privately held company making $110 million in annual revenue with offices in Michigan, Shanghai, Italy, and Belgium. It is now focused on managing big data for the automotive industry, especially via so-called vehicle relationship management (VRM) systems. “What we do is manage the relationship between the vehicle, the dealer, and the manufacturer, and we’re using the car to extend and manage that relationship,” Tweddle says.

In May, the company sold its infotainment platform, Tweddle Connect, to the Burlington, MA-based voice recognition technology company Nuance for $80 million. Tweddle says the deal made sense because Nuance wanted to compete with big carriers like AT&T and it had the enabling technology, but not the third-party automotive applications and content that Tweddle Connect had. Meanwhile, Tweddle wanted to concentrate on bolstering its VRM and information management offerings.

The connection that enabled vehicles to transmit and receive data started with OnStar and then moved to infotainment, adds Patrick McGinnis, Tweddle’s vice president of business development. “Now it’s, ‘How can we use that connection to better service, repair, and update vehicles?’ This is where we fit in very well as an end-to-end provider of content.”

A lot of Tweddle’s current offerings are the brainchild of Andrew Tweddle. He says he got more involved in the family business in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. He recognized … Next Page »

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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