General Motors Co has begun testing applications that allow subscribers to its OnStar vehicle communication system to update their Facebook status verbally and to receive text messages audibly. GM, which registered plans for an IPO with U.S. securities regulators in August, also plans a new advertising campaign for OnStar, a subscription service that connects drivers with a live operator at the touch of a button, it said on Wednesday.
The new OnStar applications come as GM competes with U.S. rival Ford Motor Co, which partnered with Microsoft Corp to launch the Sync vehicle connectivity system that is credited with boosting Ford's sales and its popularity among younger car shoppers. Under the applications GM is testing, subscribers also can listen to recent news feed messages from Facebook and can make one of four pre-set replies to the text messages they receive. GM's 15-year-old OnStar service is free for the first year after a new car purchase and $199 per year afterward for a package that includes an automatic response in the event of a crash and other assistance. For $299 per year, the system includes navigation and information services.