GM Crosses the chasm


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So when does a Detroit car company act like a software company?

When it has a new service to roll out.

OnStar – the real-time, real-human friend and helper to lost, lonely and injured drivers – launched 15 years ago. Today, it has 4.5 million paying customers. And now it’s aiming for the rest of us: Because this spring, GM made OnStar available to anyone, no matter what kind of car we’re buying, or driving. (As long as your rear-view mirror connects to the windshield, and you’re willing to spend about $20 a month.)

Given the glowing review I read by the consumer tech reviewer this morning – I might even sign up.

So how did this happen? You might say GM – the oldest of heavy-metal companies – tore a page out of Geoffrey Moore’s tech game plan, and is crossing the chasm. First, it innovated. Then it found the believers, the GM-loyalists. They got the beta version, and the special features that go to premium buyers.

It was free, but just for the first six months. That turned out to be enough time to get 4.5 million of them to sign up for real, paying between $200 and $300 a year. What exactly do they get? A mobile friend, available 24 hours a day, for search, rescue, directions and sometimes, just some human contact on a dark road. Yeah, you could get some of the same with a GPS, or even AAA membership, but the package also includes the emotional cookie of talking to someone who actually sounds like they care.

You might also say that OnStar is the most innovative auto technology to come out of Detroit in years. And it might be, in part because it builds community, one relationship at a time, even as it delivers the sweet ka-ching of recurring revenue to a hardware-driven purchase.

PR PS: I also like how they’re rolling out the launch, and what seems to be patience around publicizing it. The OnStar-for-all rolled out in January. Nine months later, they landed their first rave review in a mainstream outlet. Imagine that – waiting for coverage. And by David Pogue, of all people, who covers consumer tech for the New York Times. Not the auto guy. Not in the Saturday auto section. The consumer tech section. Because these days, just about everything comes down to consumer tech.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Amy Bermar
Amy Bermar founded Corporate Ink determined to create the kind of PR firm reporters wanted to work with. She spent her first 10 years writing for dailies and knew that good PR makes for great stories 20 years later – she's built one of the tech industry's top boutique firms.


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