Drivers who use a telematics system -- an electronic concierge or in-vehicle personal communications system -- receive faster emergency roadside assistance when needed, according to results from the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Emergency Roadside Assistance Study.

The study identifies that drivers calling for service using land-based telephone wait an average of 50 minutes for help to arrive. Cellular phone callers wait nearly as long, an average of 46 minutes, but drivers using an in-vehicle telematics system such as OnStar or Tele Aid wait only an average of 34 minutes for help to arrive.

"For the first time, we are seeing early indications of how these systems produce a time-saving benefit. This brings the performance of manufacturer-sponsored roadside telematics programs into range with independent roadside assistance programs," said Dan Lawlor, senior analyst with J.D. Power and Associates. "This could eliminate a competitive advantage in service time currently enjoyed by independents such as AAA. "Customer demand for personal assistance or concierge services is growing."

The average response time of manufacturer-sponsored emergency roadside assistance programs is 48 minutes compared with 36 minutes among independent programs.

In a separate report on automotive features and contenting, J.D. Power and Associates estimates that 30% of customers want an electronic concierge system in their next vehicle.

Of those consumers surveyed for the study, virtually all (97 percent) used a telephone (land-based or cell) to call their provider when they need roadside assistance.

There are currently only two major programs of this sort fully operational, General Motors' OnStar and Mercedes-Benz's Tele Aid. Several other manufacturers will begin offering similar services later this year and in 2002.

The fastest arrival time among all providers of emergency roadside assistance is the American Automobile Association (AAA) at 35 minutes. Its performance this year is equal to that of last year. Cadillac has the shortest time among manufacturer programs.

Meanwhile, Cadillac's roadside assistance program achieves the top ranking with an overall performance score of 869 out of a possible 1000. Placing second this year at 842 is Mercedes-Benz program.

Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz's top rankings are due to a combination of conventional original equipment manufacturer emergency roadside assistance and dealer-operated roadside service functionality. Rounding out the top five are Emergency Road Service (838), United States Auto Club (828), and AAA (821).

Nearly 8,000 owners of new vehicles who reported using a roadside assistance service or having a roadside assistance experience in the last 12 months responded to the survey.