OnStar Pairs Up With Best Buy To Offer Service In Non-GM Vehicles

General Motors has finally realized that its hands-free OnStar communications system might work better as a retail item than simply as a way to entice customers to purchase GM vehicles. At a press conference on Tuesday night, the company announced it has partnered with Best Buy to sell an after-market version that can be installed in non-GM cars and trucks.

The retail edition of OnStar will be sold as a rearview mirror that the company says is compatible with 99% of the top-selling non-GM vehicles made in the last decade. It will go on sale this spring at Best Buys nationwide for $299 with monthly service plans starting at either $18.99/month or $199/year.

OnStar says the mirror must be professionally installed and all Best Buys with garage bays (roughly 1,000 of them) will offer the installation. However, an exec for the retail chain confirmed to Consumerist after the press conference that customers are not locked into using Best Buy for the installation.

Additionally, while no details were given, OnStar did say in a statement that the new add-on will eventually make its way into non-Best Buy retail stores.


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  1. Iroc says:

    Onstar+Best Buy+Geek Squad install?
    yea this won’t go bad at all.

  2. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Yay! OnStar for my Toyota. Although, I’m pretty sure they will eventually be giving those away with a contract, like cell phones. Hmmm, how will they flash the emergency lights without the thief knowing, and disable the car? That will take some major rewiring, especially with the tendency for Toyotas to accelerate like an Audi 5000 on steroids.

    • HoJu says:

      They won’t. This will be a severely crippled version of OnStar.

      • Julia789 says:

        Yep. I bet it will be a glorified GPS and a handy emergency call button.

        The On Star in my Mom’s GMC is awesome. As it gives driving directions, it turns down the stereo and air conditioning so you hear directions. It notifies her when her oil needs to be changed or if her tires need air.

        It has about 100 features that my mom – now widowed and alone for the first time in her life – is very comfortable with. It’s about 100 fewer things for her to worry about. She loves it, and I’m glad she has it.

  3. James says:

    Might not be the full fledged GM version, but an Onstar lite. No remote start/stop/unlock. But directions/emergency contact etc.

    Will it be worth it? Dunno.


  4. gman863 says:

    Best Buy aside, I’m not sold on the value of paying an extra $20/month for OnStar.

    Sure, I might crash on a lonley road out in BF Egypt where nobody would find me for hours or days. I might also win the $335 Mega Millions jackpot. My guess is the odds are about the same for both.

    Car theft? LoJack has been available for years.. Directions? My new TomTom (w/ free traffic and lifetime map updates) cost $130 with no monthly fees.

  5. balthisar says:

    I think I’d rather see aftermarket Sync.

    • DarthCoven says:

      This. Rented a Focus last year with Sync and I’ve wanted it in my Accord ever since!

    • obits3 says:

      I’m not sure how they would do it, but I will say that Sync is awesomeness to the max. IMO,

      Mustang + Sync + Shaker Sound System = Win

    • gman863 says:

      Kia will be offering a re-named version (same technology) sometime in 2011.

  6. Rachacha says:

    I have OnStar installed on three of my vehicles, and other than the first year free (which I in protest signed up for) I have never used it and cancled my subscription after the initial free period. During the free period I did have them check for engine codes when the check engine light briefly flashed, but it was more out of curiosity than necesity as I have an OBD II scanner. I own a navigation system for directions, and I rarely drive in remote areas. Way too much money for the limited services I would take advantage of.

    Microsoft Sync…I might be interested in that (based on my interest in seeing Ford commercials, I have never tried it in person)

  7. DjDynasty-Webology says:

    I own a GM Vehicle, I purposely got the GM Vehicle because I wanted OnStar, Instead I’ll get Sync next time around, and keep a bluetooth phone hardwired in the glovebox for my partner who always leaves his phone at home.

  8. jeffbone says:

    “OnStar says the mirror must be professionally installed”…


    …”all Best Buys with garage bays (roughly 1,000 of them) will offer the installation”

    I think I sense an issue here.

    • DarthCoven says:

      “However, an exec for the retail chain confirmed to Consumerist after the press conference that customers are not locked into using Best Buy for the installation.”

      I know, let’s leave out quotes inconvenient to our narrative! Shall we?

      • operator207 says:

        In the OP’s defense, the quote you posted was after the sentence that made the OP take notice and post. You cannot reasonably expect someone on the internet to actually read an entire paragraph and THEN post their thoughts can you? Shame on you.


      • skylar.sutton says:

        I think he was implying that BB isn’t a professional installer.

        (Former BB Installer… I would agree with that statement)

  9. rbb says:

    What GM really needs to do is to spin off the OnStar division and let it become an OEM supplier to the other automakers. That way the other companies could completely integrate it into their car lines.

    • nbs2 says:

      Spin off a consumer contract and the monthly fees that come with it? They’d be fools to do so. The spin off could certainly make a lot more money, but I suspect it helps GM stay afloat.

      • DarthCoven says:

        Instead GM gets licensing fees from the other auto manufacturers. I think it’d be a good thing for GM.

  10. wiggie2gone says:

    I can think of better things to install in my car for $500.

  11. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I really don’t see how OnStar would work as an aftermarket installation. I’m assuming GM vehicles have ECUs programmed to communicate with OnStar, as well as all of the appropriate wiring harnesses.

    The only way I can see it working with non-GM vehicles would be to splice into the OBDII port and various wires, relays, and sensors that detect and control things like airbags and power locks. It would be a massive undertaking and would probably open up many cans of worms and unleash all kinds of future electrical gremlins. I’d be hesitant to let a well respected auto electrical specialist do this kind of work, let alone somebody at Best Buy.

    It’s either that or OnStar will be so crippled that it would defeat its entire purpose to begin with.

  12. JohnnyP says:

    Correct me if Im wrong but I thought that OnStar was originally a non GM product and could be installed in any car. Then gobbled up by GM and then offered on GMs exclusively.

  13. blueneon says:

    We paid $19 a month for a year and a half and then we got in a car accident a week ago. An “advisor” from OnStar never came on to help as advertised. I called later and asked wtf and was told that if the battery is disabled during the accident, then the OnStar will no longer work. So I’ll never pay to have OnStar again, because isn’t the point of having an accident mean you oftentimes mess up your car? I was VERY unhappy.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      What year was the car? IIRC, OnStar didn’t start putting backup batteries in until around 2006…

  14. sqeelar says:

    Gee how about all the GM owners abandoned by On-Star when it went from analog to digital. GM’s comment was “Well, you can still get On-Star, you just need to buy a new Cadillac.”

    • Rachacha says:

      Actually the issue was not GM transitioning from Analog to Digital, it was the Cell carriers, I believe at the urging of the US Government, who transitioned over to digital and turning off the analog cell towers. On Star in the vehicle would still transmit trouble signals, it was just that there were no cell towers that were listening anymore.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Does OnStar even rely on cell towers? I thought the big advantage of it is its ability to transmit emergency calls via satellite, when out of cellular range.

        • Rachacha says:

          The only communication that OnStar makes with satellites is gor GPS location that is then relayed to the OnStar call center over cellular communications provided primarially in the US by Verizon Wireless

          How You Stay Connected
          * Contact OnStar using the three-button system
          * Establish direct voice contact with an OnStar Advisor using the built-in microphone, cellular antenna in your vehicle, and cellular network
          * An Advisor can pinpoint your location using GPS technology. (Based on model availability.)
          * On most newer models, built-in crash sensors can also automatically alert OnStar even if your airbags do not deploy, and send critical crash details
          * OnStar module connects vehicle computer to OnStar via cellular antenna
          * Cellular antenna connects vehicle through cellular network


          In other words, if you are in a remote area with no cell reception you can’t connect to OnStar. In the early days of digital cellular, OnStar had an advantage as it utilized the more widespread analog technology so you could get OnStar reception in areas where you phone did not work which at the time was a major selling point for car dealers to play off of people’s fears of being in an accident and having no cell reception. Now that OnStar uses the same digital cellular network that most phones use, OnStar will not get any better reception than your phone.

    • consumerd says:

      That had nothing to do with onstar, that was a Goverment move to put cell towers on digital. When the analog towers started getting shut down, all those units still transmit, but nothing is listening on those analog frequencies anymore.

      that wasn’t GM’s fault.

  15. aikoto says:

    Oh boy. A tracking and remote destruction system that I have to pay for the privilege of having. Didn’t want it then, don’t want it now.

  16. JonBoy470 says:

    This is somewhat surprising to me. I’ve always thought of On-Star as one of the “Value-adds” that drives sales of GM products. I.e. I bought a GM car so I could get On-Star. It also provides a significant amount of per-unit profit fromt the monthly service charges. This offering would seem to dilute that. If they did spin it off, it would be much more interesting as a factory integrated offering, so that it would work like it does in a GM car, only in a Honda/Toyota/BMW.

    Perhaps the thought is that the incremental revenue from the Best-Buy product will more than offset lost car sales (I can get On-Star in a non-GM car, so I’ll buy that Honda after all).

    • Rachacha says:

      I think the overwhelming majority of GM vehicle owners do not subscribe to OnStar (myself included with my 3 GM vehicles). Many of the initial features that it originally offered are being replaced by modern technology, so the only real advantages are if you get in an accident in a remote area and can’t reach your cell phone (for most people, very unlikely), or remote disable if your vehicle is stolen (in my case, go ahead and take them, I need an excuse to get a new car)

  17. vastrightwing says:

    I’m sorry, but Best Buy won’t be getting near my vehicle with a pair of pliers or cutters. NO WAY!

  18. AllanG54 says:

    I’m wondering how this gets hooked in since the factory installed system can get your car unlocked by the operator, tell you when the car needs to be serviced and notifies On Star that the airbags have deployed if you’re in an accident. Seems like some features may be lost. And heaven help the people that actually have Best Buy clowns install it. You don’t want to know how they screwed up the install on my brother-in-law’s remote starter. He ended up going to a place that knew what they were doing.

    • Rachacha says:

      According to the OnStar site http://www2.onstar.com/web/portal/onstaraddon
      the aftermarket version will offer only limited capabilities compared to the features on GM Factory installed systems:
      The crash response works via a crash sensor in the mirror, none of the remote diagnostic features exist, and the remote door unlock involves OnStar calling a locksmith who will physically come to your car and unlock it.

      Automatic Crash Response
      In a crash, a built-in sensor can automatically alert the OnStar advisor. An Advisor is immediately connected into your vehicle to determine if you are okay. If you’re unable to respond, the Advisor can use GPS technology to pinpoint the location of your vehicle and send help, even if you can’t ask for it.

      Emergency Services
      You can push the emergency button at any time and connect immediately to an Advisor who can request emergency assistance to be dispatched to your location.

      Crisis Assist
      During severe weather, natural disasters or other crisis, OnStar will provide a central point of contact to help you navigate away from dangerous conditions. Specially trained Crisis Advisors can help you reach loved ones, obtain food, water, medical supplies, find the closest evacuation route and address a wide range of other needs.

      Good Samaritan
      If you witness a problem on the road, simply push the emergency button and report it. OnStar will relay the information to the proper authorities or send emergency help to that location.

      Stolen Vehicle Tracking Assistance
      If you report your vehicle stolen to law enforcement, OnStar can use real-time GPS technology to pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle and will work with authorities to help recover it quickly.

      Roadside Assistance
      If you need a tow, tire change or fuel, one push of the OnStar button will immediately connect you to an Advisor who can help direct a service provider to your exact location.

      Door Unlock (via Locksmith)
      The OnStar service includes the ability to call OnStar if you get locked out of your vehicle. The Advisor will dispatch a third-party to go to the vehicle and unlock it. However, this OnStar device cannot be used to remotely lock or unlock your doors.

      Turn-by-Turn Navigation and eNav
      Enjoy built-in, available Turn-By-Turn Navigation, so you don’t have to guess about how to get where you are going. The OnStar system will offer navigation services via voice-guided driving directions to practically any destination at the push of a button. You will be able to try a route at no additional cost by pushing your blue button or you can upgrade your service level for unlimited Turn-by-Turn Navigation. Also, eNav allows you to easily search for destinations using Google Maps or MapQuest and then send them directly to your vehicle.

      OnStar Hands-free Calling
      Available OnStar Hands-Free calling lets you make and receive calls at the touch of a button. This service also lets you make calls safely in your vehicle when you don’t have your cell phone or its battery is dead. You can purchase pre-paid calling minutes to take advantage of this service.

      Bluetooth® Technology
      OnStar offers Bluetooth Technology, making it easy to make safe, hands-free calls through your cell phone while on the road.

  19. davidsco says:

    Great, another way for the Dork Squad to A. Ripoff the consumer, B. Screw up your car