Irish drivers will be among the first to benefit from Opel's rollout of its OnStar technology when the new Astra arrives in Ireland in September. Already firmly established in the US, Canada, China and Mexico, OnStar is set to be introduced in 13 countries across Europe with more in the future.
Comprising a Wifi hotspot, vehicle diagnostic capabilities and roadside assistance, systems such as this have usually been the preserve of premium models, but Opel is to introduce the technology across its model line-up, optionally on entry-level trim lines and standard fitment on mid- to high spec versions.
It will be free for the first 12 months with a €99 charge applying thereafter. In-car Wifi will be priced separately with Opel still working out the finer details on costs based on high-speed 4G/LTE coverage and usage.
At the heart of OnStar is the emergency response system, which, in the event of an accident, can identify the location of the vehicle and deploy the emergency services should the driver be unable to respond. Operators, based at a command centre in Luton, England, can talk to communicative occupants to keep them reassured and up to date on the location of emergency services.
In addition to the automatic response system, OnStar also includes an SOS button that occupants can use should they feel ill and require assistance. OnStar operators can even update your Opel's satellite navigation system with a destination of your choice.
These are just the beginning of OnStar's capabilities with more mature systems, like the one that has been running in the US for 20 years, adding concierge services to book a restaurant table or cinema tickets.
European privacy laws have also led to the introduction of a privacy button, missing from systems already in place, that turns off OnStar's ability to track your car if you so please. In the US however, this tracking capability has led to some insurers offering premium discounts on OnStar enabled cars as it can aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles.
In the US, after the initial free subscription, OnStar has a retention ratio of roughly 50 per cent with those users contacting the service once every two seconds - a figure Opel is keen to repeat in Europe. Perhaps key to the (possible) success is the fact that the €99 annual charge includes OnStar breakdown assistance, meaning buyers can save on breakdown cover while also benefiting from OnStar's other services.