DETROIT -- General Motors is adding a free diagnostic monitoring service to its OnStar on-board communications system.
The new service performs hundreds of checks of four vehicle operating systems: the engine and transmission, antilock brakes, airbags and OnStar itself. GM announced the service last week.
Participating OnStar subscribers will receive a monthly e-mail message summarizing the diagnostic checks. The message will tell subscribers if a problem needs to be fixed. Subscribers then can use OnStar to contact a service technician.
OnStar President Chet Huber says the service is designed to provide peace of mind and enhance customer loyalty to GM.
OnStar says it has about 4 million subscribers. Roughly one-half of them own vehicles that can receive the new service, Huber says. Vehicles older than the 2004 model year are not equipped, OnStar says.
The diagnostic service is exclusive to GM vehicles, including Saab and Hummer. Mark LaNeve, GM vice president of North American sales, service and marketing, says it gives the company "a competitive edge - we have OnStar, and they don't."
LaNeve says GM is making a "significant investment" in the new technology. He would not be specific.
"We're trying to drive our price points down in a lot of segments we compete in, and adding any content is a tough decision," he says. "We wouldn't have done this without a business case that makes sense - and, more importantly, clear evidence of customer value."
GM will start to promote the new system soon in its divisional advertising, LaNeve adds.
GM dealers say OnStar has helped drive as much as 20 percent of showroom traffic this year, Huber says. That's twice the rate of the year-ago period, he says.
OnStar receives nearly 30,000 subscriber calls a month to use the system's remote diagnostics service to check vehicle performance or ask questions, Huber says.
Huber estimates 75 percent of eligible subscribers will opt to add the e-mail service.
Subscribers will be notified of the service by direct mail and through OnStar's customer magazine.
The new service is available with basic OnStar coverage. OnStar is free during the first year of vehicle ownership. After that, basic service is $16.95 a month.
OnStar will be standard equipment on 2006 Saturn and Buick vehicles. The system already is standard on Cadillac and Hummer models.
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