DETROIT – Fiat Auto SpA says it soon will begin offering a low-cost telematics system for all its vehicles.

The system, which uses Microsoft Inc.’s Windows Mobile operating system, was developed with Microsoft and will be available in all next-generation Fiat, Lancia and Alfa models, says Giorgio Audisio, Fiat deputy general manager.

The Fiat business represents the first application for Microsoft across an entire vehicle platform, says Peter Wengert, Microsoft’s group manager-Automotive Business Unit.

“Up until now, applications have been on individual models,” Wengert says here in a presentation on the impact of consumer electronics on the auto industry at the Convergence International Congress on Transportation Electronics. “The BMW 5-Series was different from the 7-Series, for example. What’s neat is Fiat is standardizing the system across all models going forward.”

Audisio doesn’t detail when the new telematics system will be made available or on what models it will debut. But he does say three versions of the device will be offered.

Fiat will offer new telematics system across platforms.

The base C1 system features infotainment and diagnostic capabilities, a Bluetooth hands-free phone kit and support for advanced speech recognition and text-to-speech capabilities. The C2 system adds a navigation system, and the top-of-the-line C3 opens up the possibilities for additional services, such as theft detection and vehicle tracking, or accident notification.

A USB port will allow peripherals such as MP3 music players or personal digital assistants to plug into the system.

Cost is kept to a minimum because there is no expensive color navigation screen. Fiat will employ only a small screen in the instrument panel with arrows to indicate navigation directions.

The system operates via voice controls and text-to-speech commands, but there can be up to 18 programmable buttons for selecting tasks. To make a phone call, for instance, Audisio says drivers would push a button on the steering wheel to activate a microphone and access the phonebook to select a number from the small screen on the instrument panel.

Wengert says the platform Fiat will use could work anywhere in the world, and because of the way it is designed can be used within a wide range of cost models, from Fiat’s low-priced system all the way to a top-of-the-line full-screen navigation system such as those most popular in Japan.

The telematics system can be upgraded remotely to stay abreast of the latest features and technology, Wengert says. It also could be used to tie into Internet services that provide stock quotes and weather updates or help drivers find the nearest gas station, he says.

Audisio says Fiat will back the telematics system as part of the overall car warranty.

Microsoft says its Windows Mobile system is in its fifth generation. It currently is used in 23 vehicles from 10 auto makers.

dzoia@primediabusiness.com