Dealers are in line for a piece of the action as General Motors Co. expands its OnStar service to non-GM vehicles through retail stores.
OnStar said last week that it will begin selling an aftermarket version of the telematics system through Best Buy and other electronics retailers. The device will be embedded in a replacement rearview mirror and sell for $299, plus $75 to $100 for installation.
Chris Preuss, OnStar's president, said he has been talking to dealers about including them in the distribution network for the aftermarket product.
"I would see dealers as a very viable place to market this," Preuss told Automotive News last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
"We're very eager to work with the dealers, particularly the big dealer networks that have a lot of volume and centralize a lot of their aftermarket" operations, he said, such as "an AutoNation or a CarMax. There's a lot of opportunity here for them."
He said dealers could offer the OnStar mirror on used cars and trucks.
"If the dealers wanted to go down that road, we would do that," Preuss said. "Obviously, through certified used with GM, we have two big opportunities. One would be to use the aftermarket device."
The other would be to activate the built-in OnStar technology that is already available in millions of used GM vehicles, he said.
The retail product would offer most of the features that OnStar's existing 6 million subscribers get, including automatic crash response and turn-by-turn voice navigation. But it won't include diagnostic features, such as alerts of low tire pressure or transmission trouble.
The move to the aftermarket comes as OnStar faces competitive threats and pricing pressures. Other automakers are offering similar embedded technologies. And Ford Motor Co.'s Sync infotainment system, which connects to the driver's mobile phone, has introduced features that compete with OnStar's bread-and-butter offerings, such as emergency assistance.
"OnStar is being attacked on several fronts," said Jack Nerad, market analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
Meanwhile, some dealers are clamoring for GM to offer a standard lifetime OnStar subscription, rather than the annual $199 to $299 charge following a six- or 12-month free subscription. Dealers say expanding OnStar to more GM customers is a way to increase service and sales opportunities.
For example, Preuss said 79 percent of OnStar subscribers return to the dealership for their 36-month service, compared with a 51 percent rate for GM owners who don't renew their OnStar subscription.
"OnStar is a great communication tool for dealers to build that relationship with the customer," said Sam Slaughter, president of Sellers Buick-GMC in suburban Detroit. "The more customers who have it the better."