DaimlerChrysler AG says it is true to its philosophy on telematics as it announces AT&T Wireless as its partner in ensuring future Chrysler Group, Mercedes-Benz USA and Freightliner vehicles are wired.

DC has been criticized for staying out of the telematics game while more than 1.4 million vehicles have been sold with OnStar, a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors Co., and Ford Motor Co. is working on a system under the Wingcast banner.

The German carmaker has said it is philosophically opposed to captive systems such as OnStar that are specific to the vehicle. In essence, the car is the wired tool and the connection is broken when the driver leaves the vehicle.

The AT&T partnership offers the flexibility to put the communications customer’s want into vehicles, beginning with some pilots before year end.

“It is a long-term thing,” says Chrysler Group chief operating officer Wolfgang Bernhard,
”part of a comprehensive North American telematics strategy.” DC supplies the vehicles, AT&T controls the technology and contributes the digital network. It will not just be a re-selling of time to customers

How it manifests itself in vehicles, such as a cradle for a wireless phone that can leave the car when the driver does, will be spelled out later this year, says Mr. Bernhard. Mercedes-Benz vehicles may choose to continue to use their Tele Aid telematics system, a combination safety, security and communications system launched in 1999.

Dealers will not be obligated to carry the AT&T system, but Mr. Bernhard is confident they will clamor to do so.

In a statement, General Motors Corp. replies, “As DaimlerChrysler has been noticeably silent about their telematics solution, we’ve been anticipating some sort of announcement. We’re pleased to see they finally recognize that consumers have a need for OnStar-like services in vehicles. It will be interesting to see, based on what they’ve told us today, what type of services they’ll be able to offer.”