According the Wall Street Journal, later this month GM will roll out thirty new cars with the option to add 4G LTE connectivity provided by AT&T. This service would allow users to stream music from sites like Pandora or Spotify. The article points out in particular that GM will be offering the service à-la-carte, that is the customer can choose how much data she would like to purchase per month much like a cell phone plan. This ambitious undertaking is a natural advancement, but it’s hard to know if it will catch on, or if it will die out like the car phone. GM believes this technology is one more way it can separate itself from the competition and believes it will help to sell cars.
While the technology is certainly flashy, and I’m sure many competitors will imitate it, I don’t see people wanting to pay for what is essentially another cell phone. As long as customer’s smart phones can be seamlessly connected to a car’s infotainment system then it seems redundant to pay a monthly fee to have your car do essentially the same thing your cell phone already can. I imagine that this technology will go the way of the car phone, which was made obsolete by the cell phone. I personally don’t see the motivation to purchase this option other than the “wow” factor.
This option is representative of how car companies are seeking to entice customers using cutting edge technology. It’s not necessarily a particularly useful feature, but any brand that offers this service is sure to seem more technologically advanced to the consumer than one that doesn’t. The consumer will see this available feature and assume that the brand is on the leading edge of technological improvements. Thus, the benefit to GM doesn’t necessarily come from the practicality of the feature itself, but instead the reputation it seems to serve. In this way, the 4G LTE option functions like a “halo” car. It attracts attention to the brand and shows what the carmaker is capable of. Consumers just have to hope some of that technology trickles down to the lower-end vehicles.