DETROIT -- For an idea of just how important infotainment chief Phil Abram's job is at General Motors, check the transcript from GM's daylong investor conference last month: Executives referred to connectivity nearly 60 times.
Abram, 55, is in charge of using GM's building blocks -- namely, the industry's broadest deployment of high-speed 4G LTE connectivity and a 19-year history with OnStar -- to stake a leadership position in connected cars that GM execs believe is critical to its future.
"The next phase of the journey," GM President Dan Ammann said at the conference, "is to take our relationship with the customer beyond the car ... to the mobile device, so that we have a digital interface with out customers that exists not just when they are in the car. This is a very, very important initiative."
In a sense, that future described by Ammann is now, Abram says. During a recent interview, Abram whipped out his smartphone to show off a new app for Opel owners that allows them to remotely unlock their doors, find local restaurants and set a dealership appointment. Years from now, it might let them hail an autonomous car from, say, an Opel-branded ride-sharing service, serving as the conduit through which GM stays connected to its customers.
"Through that app, there is an interaction and relationship between not only that customer and their car but also between that customer and Opel" or GM's other brands, Abram said. "We're going to keep expanding those services."