Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Sometime in 2012, cars rolling off the line of an unidentified auto maker will be equipped with an onboard diagnostic and communication system that will keep them connected to the company until they head to the shredder.

“It will provide virtual vehicle visibility from the start to the time it’s recycled,” says Steve Millstein, president of Dallas-based ATX Group, which is developing the system.

Millstein was here to address the Wednesday session of the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars.

He says the system will track the vehicle’s whereabouts and provide 2-way communication with the auto maker, covering the gamut of information including, for example, safety, warranty, repair and service data.

A major advantage of diagnosing each vehicle at the outset of its life is to avoid problems that might crop up after it goes into service, Millstein says.

ATX already supplies devices that connect cars to outside sources in numerous ways. Millstein predicts 80% to 85% of all cars sold in the U.S. eventually will be connected and channel myriad information.

He visualizes “telemetrics” that link consumers directly to auto makers as supplanting mass marketing at some point.

“Today, we can’t control the message we get out,” says Millstein, because “consumers control that” via all sorts of channels including blogs and texting.”

Still, he adds, “we can harness the message by collecting information (onboard cars) and acting on a real-time basis.”

One example: Emailing an owner when an oil change is due. General Motors Co.’s OnStar offers such a service.

Millstein also foresees the day when automotive components will be designed to be incorporated in onboard communication systems to track their performance.

“We’ll be able to communicate with customers daily vs. every four years,” he says.

But Millstein remains realistic about the speed of vehicle connectivity becoming commonplace. “Because of lead times I don’t think we’ll be there in five or 10 years,” he says. “But in 10 to 15 years we might.”