LAS VEGAS -- Hyundai says it will launch an in-car infotainment system in March when it offers its Blue Link system on the Sonata sedan and the upcoming production version of the Veloster sporty coupe.
The Veloster, which is scheduled to be shown at next week's Detroit auto show, is a two-door hatchback scheduled to be released in 2011 as a 2012 model and will have the sporty driving dynamics of a Mini Cooper.
The Blue Link system is expected to spread quickly throughout the Hyundai lineup in the next two to three years.
Hyundai announced the technology Wednesday at the Consumer Telematics Show in Las Vegas. The show is held annually in conjunction with the International Consumer Electronics Show, which opens Thursday.
“This is big. We're really trying to treat this like we're launching a model. Like we're launching a new car,” Barry Ratzlaff, Hyundai's director of customer satisfaction and service business development, told Automotive News.
“You're going to see us as we launch this on upcoming vehicles it's going to be a significant part of the message for those vehicles.”
He said Hyundai's research indicates the technology will increase buyer consideration o f the brand.
Like General Motors' OnStar system, Blue Link is a built-in, or embedded, telematics system, versus one that provides services primarily through mobile devices that the driver brings into the car.
Barry Ratzlaff, Hyundai's director of customer satisfaction and service business development, said the decision to go with embedded versus Web-enabled technology can be a tough one for companies.
“We've chosen the embedded route to ensure that we have a robust, consistent experience, to try to make it be as easy to use with as minimal distraction as possible,” Ratzlaff said.
One feature that makes Blue Link different from its competitors is a blending of automatic voice recognition technology and the services of a live agent. Voice recognition is used for services such as sending text messages.
If the system has trouble recognizing what the driver is saying, it triggers the live agent to step in, listen to the recording and manually type in the information. The live agent only works in the background, without interacting with the driver.
Three levels of service
There will be three Blue Link packages, offering different levels of service:
• The level is called Assurance. It offers automatic crash notification, emergency assistance through live operators, enhanced roadside assistance and a monthly vehicle status report that owners can receive by e-mail or through the Blue Link Web site. The owners have the option of scheduling service at a dealer if needed.
• The next level up is Essentials. It adds services such as remote door locking and unlocking, remote starting, voice text-messaging. If a car is stolen, the system can help recover the vehicle, prevent it from being driven, or slow down a stolen vehicle in motion.
Also part of the Essentials package is automatic notification of diagnostic trouble codes. The consumer can request more information and has the option of scheduling a dealer appointment. A dealer can even be notified automatically of a trouble code if the driver desires.
“When we showed this feature to consumers in clinics, they told us that this feature would generate a 40 percent increase in likelihood that the would go to a dealer for regular maintenance, and a 70 percent increase in likelihood that they would go to a dealer for repair,” Ratzlaff said.
Parents with teenage drivers may be interested in Blue Link's “geofencing,” which can send a text message to alert the owners if the car has driven outside a prescribed area set by the vehicle owners. There is also a “curfew alert,” speed alert and valet alert, which notifies drivers if a valet has driven the vehicle outside a prescribed area.
• The third package of services is called Guidance, which adds turn-by-turn navigation and information services such as traffic and weather.
Hyundai did not announce pricing for Blue Link.
Provided by ATX Group
The basic telematics service is provided by ATX Group, which supplies telematics systems for Toyota and Lexus vehicles, as well.
Gartner Inc. analyst Thilo Koslowski said the technology will help Hyundai continue its U.S. market momentum.
“I think it's pretty significant to see a company like Hyundai getting involved in this, too. This shows the connected vehicle is real. It's not just about GM. It's not just about Ford. It's not about the established players in this market. It's about new companies getting in to this space as well.”
Koslowski said Hyundai has taken established technology and added its own twist to it.
“Hyundai's pretty late in the game, but they waited for other companies like OnStar, General Motors, Ford Sync to really create consumer awareness for these kind of solutions.”