Thursday, July 27, 2006

GM plans upgrades to popular OnStar

Friday, July 21, 2006
GM plans upgrades to popular OnStar
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau







WASHINGTON -- General Motors Corp. will bolster its OnStar services this month to provide subscribers with even more vehicle diagnostic information, aimed at improving fuel economy in these days of $3 gasoline.

The 1.6 million OnStar users who have signed up for monthly vehicle diagnostic e-mail updates will also be informed of vehicle emissions, how many more miles before an oil change is necessary and whether the vehicle is capable of using flexible fuels like E85, which is made of 85 percent ethanol.

OnStar President Chet Huber said the additional features offer "safety, security and peace of mind and tangible financial benefits."

More than 100 million gallons of oil could be saved fleetwide over the next five years if motorists followed OnStar advice and didn't schedule unnecessary oil changes, according to GM. Huber said many vehicles don't need an oil change for more than 6,000 miles, but people get them earlier out of habit.

Without the new updates, drivers of vehicles with high emissions might not find out they wouldn't pass emissions tests in the 34 states that require them, Huber said. They also might not realize their fuel economy has declined by 5 percent.

In the next few months, GM also plans to add a feature that may do the most in preventing accidents and saving gas money: A tire pressure monitor. Nearly four out of every five passenger cars and trucks have under-inflated tires, costing motorists nearly $4 billion a year in wasted gas.

Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, said people are often lulled into not thinking about their tires, especially since new cars often don't need maintenance for 100,000 miles.

"Anything that gets people to think more about their tires and tire safety is a good thing," Kane said. "Tires are better than they have been before, but people still need to make sure they are taking care of them."

Although OnStar is nearing its 10th anniversary in September, GM declines to talk about how profitable it is. OnStar has 4.5 million members and 50 million interactions with drivers. OnStar also sells hands-free wireless minutes and is nearing its one billionth minute sold.

With GM making OnStar standard in all vehicles in 2007 -- and giving all drivers a free one-year subscription -- OnStar expects to have more than 10 million subscribers in the next few years.

OnStar's safety features have drawn attention in Europe, where regulators have been working to implement a version since 2004.

In the European Union, an OnStar-type system is expected to be mandated in all cars by 2009. Called "eCall," it is expected to save 2,500 lives a year and reduce the severity of injuries by 15 percent. It will use the European equivalent of "911" -- there it's "112" -- and officials hope to reduce response time to serious accidents by 50 percent.

You can reach David Shepardson at (202) 662 - 8735 or dshepardson@detnews.com.




© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.








1 Comments:

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Tue Aug 15, 07:11:00 PM EDT  

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