I went to London at the end of August after receiving an invitation from Opel to attend the launch of their new product, Opel OnStar. Even as a child I was strongly influenced by Opel. My family and I used to drive everything from Corsa, Kadett, Ascona, and Astra up to the Calibra.

Perhaps Opel doesn’t belong in the category of “premium brands”. But if you’re honest, its budget-friendly price tag makes it accessible to the masses. Opel offers an affordable vehicle and one thing is for certain: We build good cars in Germany.

My first time using Opel OnStar

My day in London began with a presentation of the product, which gave me a good overview and a first impression of the Opel OnStar experience. OnStar is a General Motors product. The GM brand also includes Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and several other types of vehicles. In 1995, Opel was introduced to the U.S. market and now the European market is ready for Opel “OnStar”.

But exactly what is Opel OnStar?

Essentially, you can imagine OnStar as a built-in phone with only one number stored: the number of the Opel OnStar command center in Luton, England. Sitting at the other end of the line is a real person and not a computer. Representatives are available around the clock, 7 days a week and 24hrs a day. What do they do? You can get assistance with anything, whether you’re asking for directions to the local market or need roadside assistance, representatives are there to help you with whatever assistance you require. It is definitely a very pleasant and helpful service and now I’m aware of how useful it is.

The 3 function keys of Opel OnStar

Opel OnStar is humanity by pushing a button. The 3 available buttons on the main control panel (in some models the buttons are attached to the mirror) have essentially 3 functions.

Function 1: The blue service button

The Opel OnStar Service Center can be reached by pressing this button. Depending on the system settings, it will connect the driver to a service advisor who speaks the language selected by the driver. We used this service at the beginning of our route when entering the first destination on our road trip into the navigation system. Although this feature appeared to be somewhat unusual at first, it proved to be very useful. We gave the name of the location to the service advisor on the phone & within a few moments the address was stored in our navigation system. After that, off we went on our road trip.

The blue service button is also used for around the clock roadside assistance whether at home or abroad. You don’t need a telephone or a number; you just have to press the button to be connected to an OnStar service advisor at the other end of the line. If you need assistance, the service advisor will notify the Opel mobile service responsible for repairing or possibly salvaging the vehicle. There are no additional costs because the service is already covered with Opel OnStar.

Function 2: The red SOS button

The red SOS button allows you to get help in an emergency. In case of an accident in which the airbags are deployed, Opel OnStar will automatically connect you to an operator who will inquire about the status of the occupants of the vehicle and whether or not they need assistance. When making a report, the status of the occupants of the vehicle is immediately registered and emergency services are alerted. The exact position of the vehicle can be determined quickly by using the OnStar GPS system. Being able to precisely locate the vehicle will save time and lives.

Function 3: The private mode

In Germany, privacy is a huge concern. With the private mode you have the option to disable GPS tracking. In the event of an accident or theft, the system will automatically be reactivated and the police will be alerted. In case of theft, it is also possible to prevent the vehicle from restarting after stopping.

Cross-border WiFi hotspot

Now the most exciting point for us bloggers is to have 24 hour, continuous, WiFi service across borders. Opel partnered with the telecommunications company Vodafone, to make WiFi connectivity possible. The partnership fulfills the need for uninterrupted WiFi service and guarantees pan-European coverage. The WiFi hotspot is very powerful and is accessible in and around the vehicle. Occupants are free to browse the vast network and the HotSpot can be used by a maximum of 7 devices without having to pay any additional roaming costs.

The Smartphone App for Opel OnStar

Opel OnStar’s smartphone app provides some useful functions as well. If you’re like me, you’ve probably misplaced your keys before, urgently needed something from the car, or simply forgot whether or not the car was locked – good thing that now, no matter where you are in the world, you can use the app to open or close the car.

There’s also a vehicle locating function which I certainly could have used at one point or another. I can still remember a time, 16 years ago on New Year’s day, when I was searching for my car in a garage in Stuttgart for two hours because I forgot where it was parked. Opel OnStar’s smartphone app would have been a great help. Other features include oil and fuel level displays, a tire pressure display, and the navigation system can even be programmed remotely.

What does Opel OnStar cost?

The first year of Opel OnStar is complimentary. It includes unlimited traffic and your own free WiFi hotspot throughout Europe. To continue the Opel OnStar service after the first year, it costs € 99 per year. With a price tag of € 99, Opel OnStar is economically manageable and true to Opel’s philosophy: making technology, usually only reserved for the upper classes, available at an affordable price. In the future, OnStar will be standard in all Opel cars. For an additional cost of € 400, Opel OnStar can be added to Spartan equipped models; however, retrofitting isn’t possible.

I want my own EU WiFi Hotspot!

I would certainly be willing to pay € 100 per month to enjoy the same Wi-Fi Hotspot service worldwide. Finally, it would be possible to have Internet access without ever needing to purchase a day pass to access a network. Slowly but surely, Opel OnStar will also be feasible internationally. Here in Europe, Opel OnStar is perhaps a pioneer when it comes to WiFi accessibility on the road. Chapeau!

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