OnStar, General Motors' space-age cellular phone, is expanding its universe for the 1998 model year to include every GM brand but Saturn.
OnStar will be available on 24 models, including the front-wheel-drive minivans and full-sized pickups and sport-utilities. It is now an option on just three Cadillac models. OnStar enables drivers to call for help, order flowers, find restaurants and perform other tasks.
More than 12,000 units have been sold since the system was made available last fall on the Cadillac Seville, Eldorado and DeVille, according to GM. About 12 percent of buyers order OnStar.
OnStar sales have been helped this spring by a two-month promotion that reduced the $895 charge to zero for Cadillac customers. Customers also pay a $22.50 monthly charge for OnStar services. Prices for 1998 have not been announced.
OnStar uses a cellular phone to link a vehicle with a service center, and a Global Positioning System satellite receiver to transmit the car's location. Customers can call the center and receive route directions or roadside assistance or use the concierge features to send flowers or make dinner reservations.
The GPS receiver also enables the operator at the service center to pinpoint the vehicle's location and track it if it is stolen. If an airbag deploys, an emergency signal is automatically transmitted to the service center.
But not all the 1998 vehicles will offer the same features as the original Cadillac applications. That's because not all use a data bus in the vehicle electronics, as the Cadillacs do, to move messages over a common electric highway.
All OnStar vehicles will have automatic airbag notification, spokeswoman Geri Lama said. But in some of the 1998 vehicles, OnStar can command the vehicle to unlock itself but not lock itself. It can flash the parking lights, but not the headlights on some models. And some versions require the driver to activate the phone by pressing a button on the keypad vs. a steering wheel-mounted switch on the Cadillacs.