TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The appointment of Linda Marshall to lead OnStar made news earlier this year as she became the first outsider to run the GM telematics unit since it began in 1995.
But as it turns out, the former telecommunications executive is hardly an outsider. For starters, she's a Michigan native keenly aware of the auto industry and its role in the U.S. economy although not connected directly to it through family.
Marshall also knows OnStar as well as anyone, having been a subscriber as a GM-vehicle owner for 12 years before joining the auto maker to head OnStar’s business development in November.
There's some gasoline pumping through her veins, too, evidently.
Marshall drives a Cadillac SRX back in Detroit, but for the 4-hour road trip up here for MBS she dipped into the executive fleet for a Corvette convertible. Her staffers tell Ward's she’s awfully fond of the Chevy Camaro, as well.
Marshall brings more than executive leadership to OnStar, she says, having spent her telecommunications career launching startups such as Verizon and Nextel.
And with the launch of OnStar FMV, or For My Vehicle, she leads the unit as it steps out of subscriber service for the first time and into the realm of retail.
"I’m very customer-oriented," she tells Ward's. "Safe, simple and connected all go together, but they have to have a customer."
At the same time, she says, OnStar must remain true to its roots as it introduces new items such as FMV and software connecting GM vehicles with trendy entertainment options, such as Pandora and Stitcher.
"We’re in the midst of doing a lot of new things, but we’re doing them with caution, making sure we do not denigrate what has already been built."
Marshall admits she follows a number of former telecommunications executives to GM, most visibly her former Nextel boss and current Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson.
She says she felt a greater pull, too. "It was an opportunity to participate in the historical change at," Marshall says.