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Holden postpones OnStar

Not now: GM cost cutting measures have reached down to Australia where plans for a Holden-managed Asia Pacific rollout of OnStar have hit a hurdle.

Cost cutting forces Holden to delay OnStar connectivity rollout for two years

30 Nov 2018

HOLDEN and its General Motors parent company have postponed the planned rollout of the connected OnStar service in Australia and New Zealand to cut costs in line with GM’s current round of belt-tightening.

Instead of being introduced next year when it was to become available in the Equinox SUV, the advanced system is now planned for introduction in 2021.

A Holden spokesman said in a statement to GoAuto that the move to delay the introduction was “consistent with GM’s global focus on reducing cost and operating more efficiently”.

“The delay will allow us to investigate a more cost-effective way to introduce OnStar, potentially unlocking greater capabilities and service for our customers,” the spokesman said, adding: “Delaying the rollout presents opportunities to leverage experience from across the OnStar network and may also lead to greater utilisation of a common back-end system.”

GoAuto has been told that the Holden team preparing for the OnStar introduction is to be disbanded, with the director in charge of the unit due to leave the company in January.

Holden was to manage OnStar not only for Australia but the Asia Pacific region under OnStar GM International Operations.

Originally, when it was announced in 2017, the program was to have been headed by long-time Holden executive Peter Keley, but he was reinstated as Holden executive director of sales under a shake up earlier this year.

A call centre was to have been established by Holden to handle inquiries and emergency alerts from GM cars fitted with OnStar if, for example, the car crashed, setting off the airbags.

Drivers could also seek assistance under a number of scenarios, including a break down or – potentially – assault or car theft. With the latter, stolen cars could even be located and shut down remotely in consultation with police.

Using sat-nav location and a permanent 4G mobile phone connection, the system could check the health of the car in real time, provide service information to owners via a phone app and unlock or start cars from anywhere in the world.

It comes with Wi-Fi for drivers and passengers and an emergency SOS button on the rear vision mirror for drivers who need to seek help from the call centre.

OnStar has been available in North America since 1996, although it has been consistently updated with new features over the years.

Holden introduced a cut-down form of it called Holden Assist in 2001 when it cost $1900 for a three-year subscription.

The service was quietly axed due to lack of uptake, but Holden last year announced another crack, this time with the American-style system with many more features.

No other car manufacturer offers such a service in Australia, meaning Holden would have had a much-needed point of difference.

As has been widely reported, GM is looking to cut costs across its global operations, potentially closing several factories and chopping low-selling passenger car models in favour of SUVs and trucks.

About 15,000 jobs are to go, including 25 per cent of senior executives.

A Holden spokesman told GoAuto earlier this week that the latest cutbacks would not impact its Australian workforce of around 1250 employees.

The company went through a restructure earlier this year in which 60 staff members, mainly from its Port Melbourne headquarters, were made redundant.
In August, GM also threw a lifeline to its Australian R&D operations, announcing plans to recruit an extra 150 engineers that will become a key unit of GM’s Advanced Vehicle Development division working on cutting-edge technologies such as autonomous and electric vehicles.

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