Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

SAN FRANCISCO – OnStar quietly is bringing customers into General Motors Co. dealerships, says Mark Reuss, president of the auto maker’s North American operations.

“That’s sort of an untold story,” Reuss tells journalists regarding the vehicle-telematics service during a break in the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here.

An OnStar smartphone application released last year enables users to remotely start a vehicle or lock its doors. But it also affords closer monitoring of a vehicle’s running order, from fuel level to tire pressure to oil life.

“And then it tells you, ‘Here’s the nearest dealer. You might be able to have this (service) done.’ People value that,” Reuss says.

OnStar counts 31,000 users of its smartphone application, and GM says that number is growing by 10,000 every month.

“These are hand-to-hand, tactical things that really bring the customer back to our stores and get consideration of the brand and cars,” Reuss says, linking such actions to GM’s January sales increase in the U.S.

GM deliveries jumped 22.7% last month, compared with like-2010, according to Ward’s data. The auto maker’s U.S. market share also rose, to 21.9% from 19.1% in December.

Since the bankruptcy-induced wind-down of the auto maker’s former Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer brands, GM has been reaching out in various ways – including direct marketing – to hundreds of thousands of disaffected customers.

“All those things drive sales and service,” Reuss says.

Some 90% of GM’s nearly 4,500 dealers are profitable, he adds. That total was less than 40% some 12 months ago.

emayne@wardsauto.com