Special Report

The Telematics Tide

Proving Chrysler’s MOPAR parts line is more than floor mats and mud guards, a remote tracking system with concierge-service capability quietly has crept into the brand’s list of top-selling accessories.

Dubbed EVTS, short for electronic vehicle tracking system, the aftermarket feature launched in the summer of 2010 and saw 2,000 installations in the first few weeks of availability.

By year’s end, it ranked fourth in popularity behind wheel-lock kits, roadside safety kits and navigation systems, the auto maker says.

Starting at $459, it affords GPS-based stolen-vehicle tracking. Dealers are aggressively pushing the service, but Chrysler could do more to cash in on the growing telematics market, admits Jim Sassarossi, director-MOPAR parts sales and marketing.

“We do need to be beating that drum more,” he says.

Between model-year ’05 and ’10, concierge-service installations on cars and light trucks built in North America rose nearly 3.0% to 13.7% and 20.2%, respectively, according to Ward’s data.

And more systems are coming online from other auto makers, such as Hyundai.

Michigan-based Guidepoint Systems supports EVTS, which was the industry’s first service to offer text alerts as a monitoring tool. The service, available with the “silver” EVTS plan, allows users to establish geographic boundaries and speed limits for their vehicles.

If those boundaries or limits are compromised, the person who set them up will receive a text message. Destination arrival and departure data also is recorded.

Economy-minded fleet owners are the obvious beneficiaries of such a service, Sassarossi says. But so are parents who are using the system as a “teaching tool” for teenage drivers.

The silver plan, which also offers around-the-clock emergency-service dispatching through an on-board “panic button,” is available for an additional annual fee of $149. The “gold” plan adds full concierge service for an annual fee of $249. Guidepoint also supports these additional features.

Demand for EVTS – available across Chrysler’s full model range – is “growing very fast,” Sassarossi tells Ward’s. Such is not the case with the auto maker’s UConnect Web option.

The proliferation of handheld Internet-capable devices initially crimped calls for the feature – an industry first when it launched in 2009 – which combines WiFi and cell-phone connectivity to transform Chrysler vehicles into rolling “hot spots.”

But Sassorossi says the auto maker recently has noticed “a little bit of an uptick,” led by traveling business professionals he calls “road warriors,” and tech-savvy families. The latter group represents a significant growth opportunity for UConnect Web, he says, because when they travel, “there are multiple devices in the vehicle.”

Minivans are among the vehicles most likely to be outfitted with the feature, as are pickup trucks.

“Some of the larger construction companies will have it,” Sassarossi says. “They can pull up to a site and be able to light up Wi-Fi for everyone there.”

UConnect Web provides a 100-ft. (30-m.) radius for WiFi connectivity.

“We actually have a renewed interest in this,” Sassarossi says. “A year ago, we were concerned.”

MOPAR’s expanding focus is consistent with a strategy that will see the brand add more than 1,500 accessories to its catalog this year.

emayne@wardsauto.com