At the touch of a button
General Motors is thriving on the mainland. Thanks to the popularity of Buick's Excelle saloon, Chevrolet's Cruze and Sail runabouts, and Cadillac's SLS business saloon and SRX luxury utility vehicle, the group last month reported record sales of 1,273,502 vehicles in the first half of this year, up by 5.3 per cent on the same period last year.
But the success of GM's OnStar telematics services suggests the group is backing hard sales with smart software.
A wholly owned subsidiary of GM, OnStar has offered a range of safety and security facilities linking North American motorists to service call centres for more than 15 years. More than 6 million customers operate the system with three buttons on their rear-view mirrors.
In the United States it has helped a 10-year-old boy get his mother the medical attention she desperately needed; rescued a crashed motorcyclist in an area where mobile phones wouldn't work; and helped a college student find the nearest filling station and avoid getting stranded on the way to see his girlfriend.
Introduced to the mainland in 2009, the service now links 'over 300,000' registered users to an independent call centre, Shanghai OnStar Telematics, which in May received more than 1 million customer calls, 'reaffirming the service's popularity in China', GM says.
OnStar says its directions and connections navigation facility is its most popular service.
'To date, Shanghai OnStar has fulfilled more than 3.7 million turn-by-turn navigation requests, helping drivers locate their destinations,' GM says.
The facility has also achieved 'over 100,000 real-time on-demand vehicle diagnostics checks', 'more than 1 million vehicle diagnosis reports', more than '100,000 remote door unlocks', at least '2,700 automatic crash responses', and 'nearly 200 stolen vehicle location cases'.
OnStar also introduced China's first mobile application for in-vehicle, on-board systems at this year's Auto Shanghai.
Through a smartphone, the user can access OnStar services including remote horn and lights, remote door lock/unlock and remote vehicle startup for this year's Cadillac Escalade, SRX, Buick New LaCrosse and Enclave, 'allowing Chinese drivers to access their cars from the comfort of their home or office'.
Offered on more than 40 of this year's GM models, OnStar is available in China with iPhone OS, including iPhone 4; Android, including Motorola, HTC, Samsung and Huawei; Symbian (Nokia); Windows Mobile, including HTC and Samsung; and Blackberry, GM says.
'OnStar subscribers can log on to www.onstar.com.cn and click on My OnStar to register,' GM says. 'They will then be able to download the app free of charge. They may also download the app through websites, including Apple App Store and Android Market.'