Exclusive: GM to tap into connectivity, expand car sharing services - CEO

Mon Sep 28, 2015 6:04pm EDT
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By Joseph White

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) Chief Executive Mary Barra said the automaker plans new efforts to capitalize on the connectivity built into its cars, expanding car sharing services, offering more autonomous driving features and enabling services through smartphone apps.

"Our goal is to disrupt ourselves, and own the customer relationship beyond the car," Barra told Reuters in an interview Monday ahead of a meeting with investors and analysts scheduled for Oct. 1.

Using technology embedded in its cars, she said, a customer who owns a Chevrolet Malibu could step into a Cadillac CTS and the luxury car could import from a smartphone app the driver’s preferences for how the car should function.

It would be "a hop, skip and a jump" for GM to offer broader car sharing services, she said. GM’s autonomous driving feature, SuperCruise, will also make use of high-speed data connections in cars when it launches next year.

Connectivity and apps will also help GM keep tabs on what customers are doing with their cars and how they are responding to features such as automatic braking or hands-free highway driving, Barra said. Companies such as Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) and Google Inc (GOOGL.O: Quote) are pushing to dominate dashboard displays with their software, but "we have the platform" of the vehicle itself, Barra said.

GM has moved more aggressively than most of its rivals to put high-speed, 4G LTE data connections in its cars.

"We sold more 4G LTE connected vehicles in three days in June than the rest of the industry did in the first half of the year," Phil Abram, GM’s executive director for connectivity said in a separate interview

GM forecasts that from 2014 to 2018 it will earn about $350 million before interest and taxes on connectivity related services – a rounding error on GM’s projected revenue. Barra said the value in connectivity will grow if GM can inspire customers to stick with its brands for life, and provide data GM can use to tailor features and services.   Continued...

General Motors CEO Mary Barra is pictured during the media day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany in this September 15, 2015, file photo.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Files