General Motors on Monday spelled out how much customers will have to pay to access the cellular network through its new cars.
The 2015 Chevrolet Malibu will be the first of a fleet of more than 30 GM models that will come with a 4G LTE connection powered by AT&T this year. Customers get either three months or 3 gigabytes of data as part of a free trial, and can re-up with plans that range between $5 and $50.
The vehicle data plans represent a potentially lucrative new business for GM. The automaker hopes connected cars will generate additional service revenue, augmenting its traditional core automotive sales and its separate OnStar monitoring and assistance service. An LTE connection could potentially give it an edge over competitors and increase customer loyalty.
"Our objective here is to allow you to bring your digital life in your vehicle, and your vehicle into your digital life," Terry Inch, chief operating officer for GM's OnStar unit, said in an interview.
With an LTE connection, the car can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot that can connect up to seven devices. The connection also will help augment OnStar coverage and services.
After the free trial ends, a customer has to hit the blue OnStar button and talk to a representative to sign up for additional data. GM is working on a way to sign up through the Web or on a smartphone, but it likely won't be ready this year.
The plan starts at $10 for 200MB of data a month, and goes to $20 for 1GB, $30 for 3GB, and $50 for 5GB. OnStar subscribers get a $5 break on the 200MB or 1GB plan, bringing the monthly cost to as low as $5.
Customers also can make one-time data purchases. A one-day, 250MB plan will cost $5, while a 12-month, 10GB plan will cost $200. OnStar subscribers get a discounted rate of $150 for 10GB.
AT&T customers, meanwhile, will be able to add a connected car to their mobile share plan for an additional $10 a month.
The connected car business has been a major priority for AT&T, which sees it as a growth area and a way to increase customer loyalty through mechanisms like the shared data plan.
GM came up with its pricing plan after getting feedback from its customers through OnStar and other interactions, Inch said. The company is aware that a data plan for a car is a new phenomenon, which is why it is offering the trial period. The low-end $10, 200MB plan is also seen as a "less intimidating" offer to get customers to try out the service, although 200MB is a relatively low allotment of data in the age of streaming video.
Inch noted that customers would have to opt into an LTE connection at the car lot. GM would help advise its customers on which data plans to pick based on their habits exhibited during the free trial.
"Depending on usage patterns, we will send different messaging through that trial period to let you know what would be best for you next based on your usage," he said.