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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.”