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Sunday, Apr. 20, 2014

OnStar service is helping many drivers find their way

Sunday, April 4, 2004

(Photo)
With OnStar-equipped vehicles with a press of a button you can make a phone call or obtain emergency services.
SIKESTON -- Even though Nancy Settles of Sikeston had previously lived in Memphis, Tenn., a recent trip to the city resulted in a couple of wrong turns and a visit to an unfamiliar neighborhood.

But for Settles, there was no need to panic. She just pressed the blue OnStar button on her Suburban's rearview mirror and immediately a voice asked: "How may I help you, Mrs. Settles?"

Instantaneously the person on the other line who was at the OnStar Center was able to locate exactly where Settles was by using a global positioning system and guided her safely to the appropriate exit she needed.

"He stayed with me until I felt comfortable enough to let him go," Settles recalled.

From the situations like running out of gas and locking keys in the car to making hotel accommodations, the OnStar service is assisting motorists in countless situations every day.

"It's really good for people who travel a lot," Settles said about OnStar. "I think everyone would really appreciate having the OnStar and just knowing they don't have to worry about their safety, especially a woman who is traveling by herself."

Local automobile dealers admit they're seeing an increase in the number of people accessing the OnStar feature as well as the number of General Motors units becoming equipped with OnStar.

Currently OnStar is available on 51 GM units and as an incentive, new buyers of these units receive a free one-year membership to the feature. Vehicle owners must then decide whether they want to subscribe to the service or not.

But Zip McKinney, sales manager at Martindale Chevrolet in New Madrid, said the feature is growing popular among buyers and most of them choose to access the service.

"I have probably told more lady customers it's almost like having someone ride with you but not occupying the seat next you," McKinney said. "The OnStar operator will talk you out of the situation and direct you safely to your destination." Shannon Shipman, sales manager for Autry Morlan Chevrolet-Cadillac Inc. at Dexter, noted when OnStar first came out, it was only available on the higher line of vehicles -- now it's available on standard vehicles, too.

"And it's no longer an added feature to a vehicle," Shipman said. "It has to be added to the vehicle at the time they're making it."

OnStar-equipped vehicles 2001 and newer include a red emergency button, a white dot button for personal calling and a blue button for all other OnStar services.

Shipman said he expects more GM units, and even non-GM units, to be equipped with OnStar in the future.

"If they (OnStar users) are ever in accident and the air bag is deployed, OnStar knows," Shipman explained a feature of OnStar. "It will ask, 'Mr. and Mrs. Jones, are you OK?' and if you don't answer, it will contact an ambulance."

Settles mainly uses her OnStar for directions and for a clear-sounding phone, she said. In the winter, the Settles travel to a part in Florida where cell phone reception isn't good. Through their OnStar personal phone, they can make clear phone calls to Missouri, she said.

McKinney said he's even known someone who called OnStar to send flowers to a companion.

"I know one guy who was trying to get sporting event tickets and he was told there weren't anymore," McKinney said. "So he called the OnStar concierge, and they got him tickets."

As an OnStar subscriber, Settles said she receives booklets from OnStar which often has stories about people who were in bad situations and how OnStar saved them.

And sometimes these stories happen to area residents.

"My business manager had her car in St. Louis when she was shopping," Shipman said. "When she came back out, her car was gone. She had OnStar and they were able to track down her vehicle. It had been abandoned within 10 blocks, but it was unscratched and not hurt."

In addition to motorists, OnStar comes in handy for the car dealerships.

"We actually had a car test driven and a customer was sluggish bringing it back," McKinney said. "So we called OnStar and they were able to tell us where the car was."

OnStar subscribers choose from three service plans ranging from annual rates of $200-$600: safe and sound; directions and connections; and luxury and leisure, McKinney noted.

But Settles and other OnStar users seem to think the trusty little blue button is worth every penny.

"I just really like it," Settles said. "It's kind of pricey, but it's worth it."