Carmakers are working closely with electronic component suppliers to develop a new generation of low cost navigation and infotainment systems designed for both vehicle and personal use. Renault recently launched such a system in its facelifted Clio hatch called the Carminat TomTom GPS and now Harman International has confirmed plans to supply a similar system for use in up to eight new Mercedes Benz vehicles starting from mid-2010.

Harman describes its new system as a “hybrid mid-level navigation device” that combines the benefits of a standard portable GPS navigator with the complete functionality of a fully integrated in-dash infotainment system. The design features a touchscreen control head and will mount in a cradle connected to a hideaway processing box that includes hands-free Bluetooth and music storage.

In a statement printed in Harman’s second-quarter financial results, company CEO Dinesh Paliwal said other carmakers were interested in the system as well.

The major benefit is that carmakers will now have an affordable GPS and infotainment system that can be used by the millions of vehicle owners around the world that don’t own the more expensive in-dash units. Another benefit is that it makes it possible for carmakers to offer such a system without designing it into the vehicle three years in advance like they have to with in-dash systems. Other companies Harman is working closely with include BMW and Jaguar Land Rover.