Special Coverage


Hughes Telematics Vice President Paul Kirsch says rival OnStar, a subsidiary of General Motors Corp. and easily the No.1 telematics provider, does not represent “the be-all and end-all” of the cottage industry.

Kirsch tells the recent Convergence Transportation Electronic Conference in Detroit that while OnStar built its business on the safety and security aspect of telematics, Hughes intends to grow its subscriber base with unique, highly personalized features.

“There is a market way beyond safety and security,” Kirsch says.

Formed in 2006, Hughes will provide its service to '10 model vehicles from Chrysler LLC and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz brand.

Although OnStar controls 25.0% of the market, it exclusively supplies GM vehicles, which leaves the remaining 75.0% of the sector open to Hughes and a sparse field of competitors that includes ATX Group and Continental AG.

Kirsch thinks Hughes has the inside track with superior technology such as “slick new voice recognition software” it considers industry-leading. Consumers use the system speaking naturally, without needing to memorize commands.

To challenge OnStar’s industry-leading 2,000 advisors located at three North American locations, Hughes earlier this month signed a contract with Concentrix Corp., a subsidiary of Synnex Corp., which will manage non-emergency calls with a field of 1,100 operators.

But Kirsch says Hughes will differentiate itself mostly through personalization features. For instance, users will set their preferences at a portal hosted by Hughes but “skinned” to look like one operated by the vehicle’s respective manufacturer.

Content also will be highly contextualized, Kirsch says, noting “Traffic for Houston will not work in Detroit.” Hughes will not make its entire suite of services available to every make and model, he adds.

Addressing his Convergence panel’s specific topic of how the auto industry continues to move from an OEM-supplier relationship based on price and on-time delivery to a more collaborative model, Kirsch says Hughes focuses on a best-of-breed approach when it selects partners.

The company counts IBM Corp., Oracle Corp. and Continental among its business partners. IBM will help Hughes build its telematics operations center, a hub of connectivity for Hughes telematics-equipped vehicles. Oracle will provide database and applications software to integrate Hughes technology with that of auto makers and dealers.

Kirsch says Continental was an obvious choice for its telematics communications unit. “They just do so many of them,” he says.