DETROIT -- General Motors begins rolling out 4G LTE high-speed Internet connectivity across most of its lineup this summer. Whether customers embrace the technology depends on people like Joel Bell.
Bell, 28, is the certified technology expert at James Wood Autopark in Decatur, Texas, which sells Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles. It's his job to train some 40 sales staffers not only on the technical guts of the 4G platform, but how to pitch the feature to customers.
"A guy who uses his truck for work will want to know how his laptop can stay connected on the job site up to 50 feet away," says Bell. "A mom with three kids will need to connect three separate devices so they can use tablets."
GM is embarking on the industry's broadest deployment of embedded 4G LTE technology, which will be delivered through OnStar. Only Audi had offered embedded 4G service, on the A3 sedan. GM is rolling it out on 30 nameplates across its four brands for the 2015 model year, starting with the '15 Chevy Malibu that began arriving in dealerships in mid-June.
The role of the dealership salesperson is key to GM using the feature as a competitive differentiator, says Terry Inch, OnStar's COO. He says dealers are being encouraged to plug 4G in their sales pitches rather than cramming it into the car-delivery process.
"We want the people who already have the relationship with these customers to be the subject matter experts," Inch says.
GM estimates that 50,000 employees across its 4,300 dealerships have taken online training to help customers pair devices and to extol the benefits of a fast, built-in connection. The technology's main feature is a Wi-Fi hot spot that can pair up to seven wireless devices. GM delayed the launch of a companion piece called AppShop, a suite of about a dozen applications that owners can download directly to their vehicle's infotainment unit, because it wasn't ready for deployment.
Establishing the 4G connection is relatively simple, Inch says, much like pairing a phone or tablet with a Wi-Fi connection at home.
Salespeople also must be prepared for questions on which monthly subscription plan is suitable for the customer. Plans range from $5 to $200.