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.

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