DETROIT -- For most drivers, connectivity is a matter of convenience -- the ability to stream music or receive messages during that 20-minute commute.
For the fleet owner, it's about the bottom line.
Large fleet managers long have relied on telematics systems to track their vehicles in the field, monitor employee driving behavior and keep tabs on tire pressure and oil levels. Using that electronic leash is aimed at efficiency: Optimizing routes, reducing wasteful idle times and following maintenance schedules all help keep a lid on operating costs.
But often, sophisticated systems from aftermarket providers such as Telogis and NexTraq require costly hardware installations, multiyear contracts and monthly vehicle charges that put them out of reach for small-business owners. General Motors wants to attract those mom-and-pop operators with what it bills as the first integrated, hardware-free tool for small businesses to manage their fleets.
GM's Commercial Link is a homegrown service that gives customers with an active OnStar account access to location, speed, fuel consumption and other vehicle data. Users can get a fleetwide snapshot or drill down to individual vehicles. The tool returns basic charts and graphs of fuel economy or personal-vs.-business use, for example, which business owners can use in their tax reporting.
Launched last month on 2015 models across all four GM brands, Commercial Link is offered for $10 per vehicle on a month-to-month basis, with no hardware installation. GM believes the system offers a competitive edge as it looks to ramp up sales to small businesses, generally defined as customers who maintain fleets of 15 or fewer vehicles.