DETROIT -- A British company that has put its in-vehicle security system on 40,000 cars in Europe has established a beachhead in North America.
The Royal Oak, Mich., company, i-mob USA, plans to evolve beyond the aftermarket to have its product factory-installed at the automakers, said CEO Juan Barnard. That would be a step toward competing with the world's established leader in the segment - General Motors' OnStar, which has about 4 million subscribers.
I-mob USA is a new partnership between i-mob PLC, which developed the technology, and a group of U.S. investors including Trillium Teamologies Inc., also of Royal Oak. Trillium is a software developer founded by Forest Farmer, former president of the Chrysler Acustar parts subsidiary. I-mob PLC is a minority partner.
I-mob is sold in Europe and Asia on the aftermarket. It combines an anti-theft alert system and remote vehicle shut-off with global positioning satellite tracking, remote start and remote door-unlocking functions. Like OnStar, it also has an automatic communication to a call center in the event of a significant collision.
The digital system is set up so drivers can use their cell phones to activate the start or locks remotely after punching in a pass code. Another feature allows a parent to track the location of the vehicle any time, a security measure for teens out past curfew, said Simon Allen, i-mob PLC managing director.
Royal Oak Ford is testing the system on a Ford Escape, said John Hagar, an owner of the dealership.
Hagar said the system will be offered as a dealer-installed option. But the real potential is as a factory-installed product for which insurers can provide owners with a discount, he said.
Trillium Vice President Greg Stanalajczo said Trillium will distribute and support the system for i-mob USA. Simon said the system and full subscription costs about $2,000 in the United Kingdom.
He said subscription renewals are running about 60 percent after the first year and 50 percent after the second year.
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