13 months ago, Mary Chan joined General Motors in the newly-created role of President of Global Connected Consumer, where she is responsible for the automaker’s global infotainment along with the global business operations of OnStar. Chan, who reports directly to GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, joined The General from Dell — where she served as senior vice president and general manager of Enterprise Mobility Solutions & Services.
Currently, Chan is driving the set up and execution of GM’s strategic global infotainment plans, including OnStar’s global expansion as well as the integration of all in-vehicle connectivity services and solutions across GM’s various vehicle brands.
Here are five questions and answers of Chan, who is heading (arguably) the most fast-changing part of The General’s business:
1. You’ve spent most of your career in the wireless industry. Why did you choose to join GM? What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?
Our collective challenge is the speed at which we can bring to market the connected functionalities that our customers expect in their next vehicle purchase and we must do it well, with the best quality and user-experience possible. We really need to aggressively work as a team, across GM, to lead the industry in this area.
I worked in the wireless industry for 24 years before joining GM. I covered the area of wireless infrastructure and consumer services and led the early deployment of the wireless broadband technology known as 4G LTE.
It’s exciting to be able to leverage the wireless ecosystem here at GM with our connected car initiative. With OnStar’s experience in connected services, GM has a unique opportunity to create a differentiated consumer ownership experience for automobiles.
2. The Global Connected Consumer business group that you lead combines connectivity, telematics and infotainment. What’s the future of OnStar in this new environment?
OnStar’s future is brighter than it’s ever been – it remains the core enabler for GM’s expanded offering of connected services. We pioneered the connected car 17 years ago with OnStar and our strategy continues to center on built-in connectivity. The broader Global Connected Consumer organization at GM allows us to combine advancements in wireless connectivity and the power of OnStar, with new innovations in infotainment and telematics to engineer tomorrow’s connected car.
We’ve invested in high-speed connections across GM vehicles and in delivering an application framework for collaborative innovation with third-party developers. These investments will allow us to continually deliver new capabilities that not only build on OnStar’s heritage in safety, security and telematics, but also offer new options for entertainment, information and efficiency.
Our customers tell us that safety and security are the most important services we provide, but there is also strong interest in a wide range of other services that connectivity makes possible. We can deliver a broad range of enhanced offerings through the connectivity and developer collaboration that we’re enabling today. Our goal is to expand the suite of connected services offered in our vehicles with careful consideration to make sure these new features and services are relevant, add value for customers and are seamlessly integrated so drivers can stay focused on the road.
3. What is the Global Connected Consumer’s long-term vision for the connected car? Why does it matter for consumers? For GM?
We believe that built-in, high-speed connectivity will be a major competitive advantage in the near future. We’re confident that consumers want and need the types of services that can only be delivered through a truly connected vehicle, as opposed to one that depends on a third-party connection. Our unprecedented commitment to bringing that connectivity to GM vehicles puts us ahead of the competition.
Our job at GCC is to realize the potential of this investment. We’re doing this in two ways. First, we’re identifying and building the applications and capabilities that make our cars better and enable GM owners to do new things or to do things better. Second, we’re fostering an ecosystem of developers and third parties that will work with us to turn additional potential applications into realities.
For example, connected applications could one day allow us to increase fuel economy, decrease vehicle maintenance costs and provide more accessibility and choices to customize the vehicle after purchase. The connected car is all about giving people choices, adding convenience and doing it in a safe and simple way.
4. Couldn’t you innovate just as much by using the connectivity from a smartphone or tablet, rather than a built-in connection?
Built-in, high-speed connectivity is critical because of its ability to use vehicle information and connect remotely. This does not mean customers cannot still use their devices and integrate them. We will offer both options, but the bigger value and opportunity is with the built-in connection.
Down the line, we are looking at extending our connection beyond the radio and infotainment system, using data from other sources within the vehicle. GM is uniquely positioned to offer apps that improve safety, streamline navigation, automate tasks for the driver and enhance entertainment for passengers when the connection is built-in.
Our flexible application framework will allow our customers to add new apps to their vehicles, once they are validated and approved by GM, so that they can personalize new features and updates after the initial vehicle purchase. This will be done through a GM App Shop embedded in the vehicle’s infotainment system. By working with the developer community, we can investigate what apps people want access to in the vehicle and how to enhance the driving experience.
5. What is the one app that you would love to have in your vehicle?
I wish my car could notify my family of my estimated time of arrival as I am driving to pick up my kids. The car should also automatically adjust the music when I have my kids in the car.
I also would love my car to sync with my calendar when I am away from my vehicle. Scheduled trips from my calendar combined with my personalized driving patterns could be used to predict when I need to fill my gas or charge my vehicle.
When I travel out of town, my preference settings and music will follow me when I drive another GM car.
These are just a few of the possibilities. One thing I am sure of is that connectivity in the vehicle will unleash a new era of creativity just as it has with smartphones, tablets and PCs.
The GM Authority Take
Some takeaway points that are of particular interest:
- GM has invested heavily in high-speed vehicle communications.
- GM seems to realize greater value in building connectivity into the vehicle (over bringing one’s own connectivity via a smartphone or tablet) due to the ability to use vehicle information and connect remotely. This was also a slight poke at Ford’s strategy, which calls for connecting the vehicle using the user’s own devices.
- There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the possibilities that can stem from GM’s work in the infotainment-telematics-connectivity arena, or from apps built by third-party developers. This is an exciting time to be GM enthusiast, and that of high-tech.