Free maintenance notices seen as dealer boon

OnStar change targets service visits

Free maintenance notices seen as dealer boon

Inch: "A huge opportunity"
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DETROIT -- A significant change to General Motors' OnStar subscription plan could lead to more service visits to GM dealers.

Starting with its 2015 models, GM will offer buyers free monthly vehicle-diagnostic reports through OnStar, and allow those customers to sign up to receive maintenance notifications from their dealerships. Both services will be offered at no charge for five years under a plan named OnStar Basic; previously, they were available only to paying OnStar subscribers.

The change has the potential to significantly expand the pool of roughly 2.5 million U.S. and Canadian GM customers who now receive regular maintenance notifications from their dealerships, GM executives and dealers say.

"It's a huge opportunity for dealers," says Terry Inch, OnStar's COO.

Inch says that customers who are e-mailed maintenance notifications from their dealerships come in for two additional service visits a year compared with customers who don't receive them.

GM launched dealer maintenance notifications in 2008. Customers can agree to have the monthly vehicle-diagnostic reports sent to their dealerships from OnStar, which checks certain readings from the engine, transmission, antilock brakes and other systems. Dealerships in turn e-mail customers to schedule an appointment for needed service, from a pending safety recall to a check-engine light or past-due tire rotation.

Dave Wright, fixed operations director at Shaheen Chevrolet in Lansing, Mich., says more than 85 percent of customers who buy a new vehicle sign up to receive maintenance notifications from the dealership. Offering the service beyond paying OnStar subscribers will allow Shaheen to retain more service customers, he believes.

"This definitely will drive our service loyalty higher," Wright says. "We can communicate with more customers and keep them from defecting to the aftermarket."

GM is implementing the change in conjunction with its rollout of 4G LTE high-speed connectivity on most 2015 models.

Customers will continue to pay up to $19.95 per month for OnStar's safety and security services, or $29.95 for that package plus turn-by-turn directions. Both OnStar subscribers and nonsubscribers can get 4G service at rates ranging from $5 or $10 per month up to $50, depending on the amount of data.

In addition to the monthly diagnostic reports and dealer notifications, the OnStar Basic plan includes RemoteLink, which allows owners to remotely start or unlock the car via a smartphone.

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.


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