DETROIT -- General Motors, seeking to use its OnStar telematics service as a stronger selling point, is dangling some OnStar features to nonsubscribers.
GM said last week that buyers of properly equipped 2014 models will get five years of free smartphone-based features that enable the buyers to start or unlock their vehicles from almost anywhere. Before, those services were available only to OnStar subscribers, via a wireless application called RemoteLink. OnStar subscriptions range from $18.95 to $27.95 a month, once the six-month free trial ends.
The remote-start feature will work only with vehicles that are factory-equipped with remote-start capability, typically midlevel trims and above.
By broadening the availability of RemoteLink, GM is taking advantage of a technology that most other automakers can't match. Because its OnStar system is embedded, owners can link to their vehicles even when they're 1,000 miles away.
"If you don't have a built-in connection, you can't interact with your vehicle" remotely, said Phil Abram, GM's chief infotainment officer, adding that Ford and most other automakers don't offer smartphone-based remote-start capability. "This is a feature that no other OEM can match on this breadth and scale."
Abram said the addition of free RemoteLink services will be a selling tool. He said that a poll of RemoteLink users showed that 72 percent are more inclined to buy another GM vehicle because of the service. RemoteLink, introduced in 2010, has about 320,000 active users.
GM has named the free service RemoteLink Key Fob Services, because it allows owners to use their smartphones or tablets to remotely perform tasks they normally do with their key fob.
Other RemoteLink services will remain available only to paid OnStar subscribers, including tire-pressure monitoring and the ability to send turn-by-turn directions to the vehicle.
GM has more than 6 million OnStar subscribers. It says more than half of new-vehicle buyers sign up to pay for OnStar once the six-month trial period ends.
GM is making a big bet on embedded wireless technology by equipping most of its 2015 models with 4G service, the fastest type of wireless Internet connection now available.
Mary Chan, president of GM's global connected consumer unit, said that 4G service will allow GM to offer more interactive services, such as vehicle-health monitoring that can flag maintenance problems early.