General Motors has a less grandiose vision for its OnStar service than in the telematics heydey, but President Chet Huber says security and dealer service offer a way to profitability. Huber talked to Staff Reporter Dave Guilford.
What's coming from OnStar this year?
We'll launch in the fall the next major enhancement in the safety and security side of what OnStar can do with advanced automatic crash notification. We'll be able to sense how severe an accident is, not just that an airbag has deployed, and we'll be able to transfer that information to the 9-1-1 agency.
Is safety and security becoming the core product?
The broadest value proposition that gets people interested and willing to pay is safety and security. While we can do a lot more than that, what this year is about for us is continuing to drive consumer education around that broad theme of safety and security. We're really pushing that side of our business pretty hard.
What's your re-up rate after the initial year of free service?
It's in line with what we said it needed to be to make this a real business.
Are you profitable?
It's not a question I get to answer.
Is there a particular demographic that OnStar appeals to?
It's broad, the appeal of this. If you survey OnStar subscribers, 70 percent of them say that OnStar will be a material part of their next vehicle purchase decision. We get women's scores on that particular question that are in the mid-80s. When we ask questions like, "Do you feel more safe and secure?," what we get back from a women's category is 94 percent of them say they feel more safe and secure in an OnStar-equipped vehicle. Are there going to be opportunities for us to understand the segmentation and increasingly message that way? Absolutely.
What are you doing for dealers?
We're (OnStar) getting about 14,000 remote vehicle-diagnostic calls a month. The experience for a customer is, "My check-engine light just came on." The first question they want answered is, "Is this car about to have a real serious problem? Do I have to park it right now or is it going to be a little annoyance?"
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you've got these wireless connections into the vehicle's electrical architecture, think of the dealer experience where they can set up their customer list the night before the customers are going to come in, and their system automatically contacts the car's computers and says, "Let me know what I'm going to see tomorrow morning in my service bay. Let me see the diagnostic computer, and I'll have a report when they come in."
How far out is that?
I would say that you'll start to see parts of that being built within the next 12 to 18 months.