Sunday, September 12, 2010

GM's OnStar could offer free services

General Motors Co.'s OnStar in-car communications unit may offer some free services next year to rival Ford Motor Co.'s Sync music and information system.
OnStar, a subscription service that provides accident alerts, directions and vehicle diagnostics, is scheduled to introduce an upgraded system this month that links vehicles to the social media site Facebook and translates voice messages to text.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, is adding features to keep pace with systems including Ford's Sync.

"When Ford came out with Sync, they met OnStar's services and upped the ante," said Brandy Schaffels, an analyst at

"Technological features are where GM and Ford are going to build their reputation with the next generation."

OnStar may begin offering entertainment and information services that link to a user's smart phone without a subscription or fee, analysts say. OnStar is now offered free in many models for the first year and then for $199 to $299 a year, depending on the features.

The voice-to-text system will be studied with a test audience while the company decides whether to offer it to all customers. The new version of OnStar will have enhanced services for emergency response, which alerts an OnStar operator when there is a crash.

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