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DCX dials AT&T for telematics

DaimlerChrysler will work with AT&T Wireless to develop its telematics system in North America for Mercedes-Benz U.S.A., Chrysler group and Freightliner.

2001 Management Briefing Seminars index
The automaker has chosen to work in partnership with an existing company for its telematics services. Rivals General Motors, with OnStar, and Ford Motor Co., with Wingcast, chose to set up separate business entities.

Chrysler group COO Wolfgang Bernhard announced the partnership with AT&T Wireless, of Redmond, Wash., on Tuesday at the Management Briefing Seminars. Bernhard is on the speaker roster for today's session.

The two companies, which signed a deal in mid-July, expect to have a telematics pilot system available in the fourth quarter. The first production units are expected to be available early next year. Specifics on price and hardware were not disclosed.

"We believe that the customer and the provider will mutually determine the future of telematics in the automobile," said Bernhard, who is responsible for all e-business. "Our role is to give them the most sophisticated technology, delivered in a safe way."

The automaker considered using OnStar for Chrysler group, but decided it was not the right fit for DaimlerChrysler's strategy, a DaimlerChrysler spokesperson said.

GM created OnStar in 1997. Ford in 2000 formed a joint venture with Qualcomm Inc. to create Wingcast. GM's OnStar has more than 1 million subscribers; Ford has not put Wingcast systems in its vehicles.

The DaimlerChrysler-AT&T effort will first focus on Chrysler group vehicles and Freightliner trucks. Mercedes-Benz will continue to offer its TeleAid telematics system, which relies on ATX Technologies Inc. of Irving, Texas, to provide customer service. But if DaimlerChrysler and AT&T devise a different telematics option for the luxury brand, the automaker will consider making a change, the spokeswoman said. AT&T has provided TeleAid's airtime since 1999.

DaimlerChrysler will announce additional telematics partners this fall. The automaker will evaluate the North American program before considering other markets.

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