Automakers Race for Lead in Free Connected Car Offerings

Audi connect

The race is on: Which automaker will offer the best con­nected car telem­at­ics free of charge – or at least for a free trial period? That race started in 1995 when Gen­eral Motors launched OnStar, and was fol­lowed the next year with Ford’s Remote Emer­gency Satel­lite Cel­lu­lar Unit in the 1996 Lin­coln Con­ti­nen­tal – a satellite-based con­nec­tion to emer­gency services.

Most recently, Audi announced it will help dri­vers find an empty spot in a park­ing lot. GM is offer­ing OnStar RemoteLink Mobile App ser­vices, includ­ing remote start and door lock for five years on 2014 vehi­cles. BMW’s M Power App lets own­ers record their dri­ver per­for­mance wher­ever it is they choose to drive, includ­ing around a race track. Tesla Model S dri­vers can down­load songs for free via Pan­dora sim­ply by mak­ing an audio com­mand to the car’s info­tain­ment sys­tem. These automak­ers are joined in the race by Ford, Hyundai, and nearly all lux­ury automak­ers offer­ing long list of con­nected ser­vices for free and even more for a fee.

Audi is work­ing with nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem provider Inrix for its park­ing spot finder, which cov­ers more than 18,000 park­ing garages and lots across the coun­try. It’s now part of Audi’s Con­nect sys­tem that pro­vides a range of ser­vices includ­ing nav­i­ga­tion, remote start­ing, and pay­ing tolls and park­ing fees automatically.

GM now has more than six mil­lion OnStar sub­scribers and says more than half of its new car buy­ers sign-up to pay for OnStar ser­vice once the six-month free trial period ends. GM says its mak­ing more than $1.5 bil­lion in annual rev­enue from sub­scribers who are pay­ing for dif­fer­ent options rang­ing from $18.95 to $27.95 per month. Automak­ers expect to pro­duce $6.7 bil­lion in North Amer­ica through con­nected car sys­tems and ser­vices by 2018, up from $2.1 bil­lion in 2010.