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OnStar Ousts Preuss; Among Other GM Changes

Perry named U.S marketing chief.

by on Jan.18, 2011

Former OnStar President Chris Preuss during a presentation at CES, in Las Vegas, earlier this month.

General Motors launched another round of executive changes, ousting the head of OnStar and placing a new executive in charge of marketing the company’s four “core” brands in North America.

Linda Marshall has been appointed president of OnStar, effective February 1, 2011.  Marshall succeeds J. Christopher Preuss, who has “elected to leave the company” to launch a communications consultancy practice, GM said Tuesday.

“As we continue to evolve the OnStar brand and bring new features to our customers, we believe Linda’s deep experience can take the brand and platform to the next level,” said Stephen J. Girsky, vice chairman, corporate strategy and business development.

The shake-up at the telecommunications subsidiary comes as OnStar begins a big push to expand its customer base – among other things by offering an aftermarket mirror, which it will sell through Best Buy, that owners of non-GM vehicles can use to subscribe to the service.  Preuss launched that new product and outlined other OnStar plans, earlier this month, at the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.


OnStar For Everyone?

A smart GM mirror for your Toyota?

by on Jan.05, 2011

OnStar President Chris Preuss shows a new "smart" rearview mirror that can be installed in non-GM vehicles -- and will be sold through Best Buy.

By the end of this month, about 69,000 General Motors customers will use OnStar to get into their locked cars, 10,000 will use the service to call for police or an ambulance, and as many as 3 million will use OnStar to map out a route.

Yet despite the fact that the GM subsidiary is “a major profit center,” according to a senior OnStar official, it has never really lived up to its potential – until now, anyway.  That’s something the company hopes to start changing with the launch of an assortment of new products and services that are being unveiled, this week, at the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.

While OnStar makes plenty of money, and already has six million subscribers, “We need more growth,” acknowledges the subsidiary’s President Chris Preuss, who says he sees “substantial opportunities” to pitch OnStar services to those who aren’t buying a new General Motors car, truck or crossover.

During a CES preview, Preuss unveiled a new OnStar rearview mirror that offers Automatic Crash Response, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, one-button access to emergency and roadside services, and Bluetooth hands-free calling.  To show the versatility of the new system, it was previewed on a Toyota Camry.


New OnStar Services Launch Monday despite DD

GM's expansion includes social media and voice texting as Distracted Driving remains a major public health problem.

by on Sep.15, 2010

Auto companies remain committed to expanding vehicle electronics and web connectivity.

OnStar is debuting next week new services and technologies for its 6 million subscribers as part of a “realignment” of the company’s long-term strategy.

The GM subsidiary plans to offer what it calls innovations that “significantly increase drivers’ in-car connection,” on the eve of the second annual Distracted Driving summit that is being convened next week in Washington, DC by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

OnStar executives did not respond to queries about its participation in the meetings. There are no specific public data that show to what extent, if any, OnStar users are part of deadly DD.

LaHood has repeatedly criticized the growing use of electronics in automobiles, but is powerless to regulate it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (part of DOT) is prohibited by the U.S. Congress from promulgating national regulations concerning distracted driving; so LaHood has been using his “bully pulpit” to oppose the well-financed auto, electronics and cell phone lobbies whose companies’ devices are enabling almost 6,000 deaths each year and more than 500,000 injuries.

Simultaneous events held in New York, Austin, San Francisco and Miami yesterday gave OnStar subscribers a first look at new technologies possible through the ninth generation hardware, including in-car social media interactions that are being tested.

“With the extremely high awareness and respect for the OnStar brand, we’ve created a long-term vision that includes new in-vehicle hardware, an all-new IT infrastructure and a host of new partnerships and services that provide the basis for growth,” said OnStar President Chris Preuss.


GM Aiming to Redefine, Rebuild OnStar

Telematics brand is making money, but needs to respond to fast-changing world, says new CEO.

by on May.28, 2010

OnStar has "healthy" revenues - but plenty of challenges - says new CEO Chris Preuss.

A pioneer in automotive telematics, General Motors’ OnStar unit may be generating “healthy” revenues, but the world of in-car electronics is changing fast and if it doesn’t make some major changes soon OnStar very well could be left behind, admits its new chief executive.

While its core business is selling safety and security – with devices that can call for help after a crash or another emergency – OnStar is exploring a fast-expanding array of possible services that can be delivered within a moving car, says the unit’s new Chief Executive Chris Preuss.  And it is willing to break with tradition, he notes.  In years past, OnStar believed it had to develop all services in-house, but is now willing to work with outside software and service partners.

The challenge, warns Preuss, the former head of General Motors public relations, is that many of the features that might be technologically possible pose potential risks.

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“I see a big, flashing red light,” says Preuss.  “One of the biggest issues we have is distracted driving,” which is being blamed for thousands of deaths and injuries on the road each year.  “At the end of the day, 6,000 people died playing with devices (while driving) last year.  That’s the equivalent of two 9/11s.”


Shaking Up the PR World

Yes, Simon, you can come home again.

by on Jul.28, 2009

What keeps folks like Simon Sproule coming back to back-breaking auto PR jobs?

What keeps folks like Simon Sproule coming back to back-breaking auto PR jobs?

“You can’t go home again,” the author Thomas Wolfe wrote, in the book by the same title.  And usually, that seems to be true.  But not if you’re Simon Sproule.

In a relatively brief but meteoric career, the 40-year-old Brit went from a minor player in Ford’s global media relations machine to become the worldwide head of public relations for Nissan Motor Co., reporting directly to CEO Carlos Ghosn.  And then, late last year, Sproule shocked those who know him by announcing he’d be leaving the auto industry to join Microsoft as the tech giant’s new PR chief.

I have to admit, knowing him since he was a virtual child prodigy that I referred to as “Young Simon Sproule,” I didn’t really see him in the tech world.  Capable?  Absolutely.  But there’s something about the auto business that gets anyone connected with it, whether a worker bee, PR flack or media hack, hooked.  And so, I couldn’t even fake the slightest bit of surprise when the newly-married Sproule politely called me, this afternoon, to reveal that he was lured back by the siren call of Carlos Ghosn, and would be moving yet again, but this time to Paris.  Sproule will take on the newly-created position as head of PR for the Nissan/Renault Global Alliance.

Even the flaks trust us!

Even the flaks trust us!

“My heart is in the auto business,” he admitted from his office at Microsoft, noting that he’ll be back to work with Nissan/Renault on September 1st.