General Motors is to launch its digital Onstar connection service in Europe this year, offering Opel and Vauxhall buyers free car connectivity for the first year after purchase.
Cars are equipped with their own mobile phone SIM card, enabling Opel to get in touch with a driver if an airbag deploys and alert emergency services, or to remotely unlock the car if somebody has locked keys into the vehicle.
“Perhaps the most important launch for us in Geneva is Onstar, which offers emergency assistance, and connectivity services, connecting the car to the internet,” Opel Chief executive Karl-Thomas Neumann said.
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Buyers in Britain, the Netherlands and Germany will be offered free 4G Wi-Fi in their new cars in the first year, he said.
“The rumours about the Apple car is a sign that the car industry is in a process of upheaval. The car will become part of the internet of things and we want to be part of that,” he said, referring to web-connected machines and gadgets.
Separately, Neumann said that Opel and Vauxhall would need to make up for lost sales in Russia by boosting growth in other markets.
Opel has been hit by a plunge in Russian demand and a weak rouble that have prompted it to cut production and shed jobs in its third-biggest market.
The company expects moderate growth in the UK, Germany, Spain, and Poland. Because of the economic and political situation in Russia, investments in that market had been put on ice, Neumann said.
Neumann also repeated that he remains committed to reaching break even in Europe in 2016. The last time GM made a net profit in Europe was in 1999.
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