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ChevyStar, the Andean version of OnStar, launching in Brazil

29 September 2015 Flavio Gomes Dias

In June 2015, General Motors announced that the new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze will be launched in Brazil later this year featuring telematics from OnStar. Although Volvo launched "On Call" and BMW "ConnectedDrive" in Brazil in 2011 and 2014, respectively, GM will be a pioneer since the vehicles will be manufactured locally. GM has talked generically about the system and features, pointing out the capabilities already available globally like connectivity, security, communication, navigation and entertainment, and saying that all functionalities would be confirmed at a later time.

GM telematics history in Latin America

In Latin America, Brazil is not the first country with OnStar. Ecuador began offering telematics services from OnStar in 2004 followed by Colombia and Venezuela in 2005, and more recently, Mexico in 2013. In Mexico this system is coined OnStar as in other countries, though the Andean version of these services deployed in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela is named ChevyStar.

The first generation of ChevyStar offered remote vehicle tracking and immobilization, roadside assistance and remote door lock/unlock through a CDMA network and GPS signal. The second generation currently uses GSM instead of CDMA and presents many similarities with its parent brand OnStar. It adds emergency services like auto crash response; security services like remote ignition and vehicle blocking or slowdown; navigation; and diagnostics with dealer maintenance notifications and driving profile reports.

ChevyStar is available in South America in two versions; a basic with stolen vehicle assistance, remote door lock/unlock and roadside assistance; and a more advanced version with all other functions. There is no additional cost in the first year of subscription. In some GM vehicles without ChevyStar, it is possible to install the basic version at GM dealerships.

ChevyStar's proactive monitoring services and local features

As in other countries or regions, OnStar also unique features specialized for the market it is being deployed in. South American countries deal with a high rate of car-thefts and kidnappings, so OnStar tailors special features to suit the market - in this case it consists of stolen vehicle assistance, route monitoring, and parking monitor.

"Route Monitoring" allows the customer to define a route to a specific street or point of interest and contacts a ChevyStar agent, who will follow the car via satellite from the beginning until the desired address. If the car, for any reason, takes a different route, security measures are taken. "Parking Monitoring" allows the driver to leave the car parked anywhere, and a message is sent if the vehicle starts moving again. The two services give the customer proactive protection and monitoring before any issue arises.

In August, GM announced other special features for the Brazilian market. GM will alert and warn drivers about flooded, blocked, or restricted streets or areas. Large metropolises like Sao Paulo in Brazil, Quito in Ecuador and Bogota in Colombia have traffic controlled areas where only certain vehicles can be on the road at designated times, which can be determined by the weekday or the license plate number. For instance, cars with a plate number beginning with a 1 and 2 cannot be driven in Sao Paulo downtown on Mondays from 7 to 10 AM and from 5 to 8 PM in the restriction zones. In Ecuador and Colombia, ChevyStar already offers this service to drivers and gives subscribers notification an hour before the restrictions go into effect.

Finally, it has yet to be revealed if the GM telematics services in Brazil will be named ChevyStar or OnStar, but since the offerings have more similarities with the services offered in the Andean countries, it would be fair to assume that the Brazilian version will share the same name of ChevyStar.

Conclusions

A critical issue for telematics services is the availability and quality of GSM and GPS signals. ANATEL, the Brazilian Agency of Telecommunication, claims that the GSM signal is available in all Brazilian territory, however, in practice the quality in some of the remote regions is not as good as ANATEL asserts.

In 2012 GM established a global partnership with Spanish telecommunication company Telefonica. There is a high probability that OnStar will also use Telefonica in Brazil because of Telefonica's presence in Brazil though its subsidiary VIVO. VIVO already has the infrastructure in place including a cloud-based platform for M2M (Machine-to-Machine) services.

GM is a top car-seller in Brazil, ranking second in 2015 behind FIAT. The proposal of bringing these telematics services to Brazil will represent an interesting advantage to GM in relation to its competitors. At the moment, no other volume carmaker has made any movements to bring similar telematics services to the Brazilian market. However, according to IHS evaluation, with the spread of this technology beyond the Cruze, the market will require a response from competitors.

Brazilian's telematics mandate, CONTRAN 245, could also encourage companies to provide these services in Brazil, but the constant delays and the new deadline rescheduled to 2016 has caused more mistrust than any positive effect. IHS Automotive forecasts that the movement to increase investments in telematics solutions in Brazil will be slower and less aggressive due to this reason.

Flavio Gomes Dias is Senior Analyst Researcher II, Automotive Technology

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