GM Adds Digital Marketplace to Its Vehicles for Onboard Purchasing

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

General Motors has announced it is the first automaker with its very own in-car commerce platform. We aren’t the least bit surprised.

In fact, we’ve been waiting for GM to announce something like this ever since it expressed an interest in using OnStar to deliver “personalized marketing offers” a little over a year ago. Since then, the manufacturer has also indicated plans to create an app store accessible from a vehicle’s infotainment system, as well as use driver data acquisition as a possible revenue source.

While GM isn’t the only company taking this path, it’s arguably the one that’s gotten the furthest. Our takeaway is that the services being rendered and developed are extremely clever ways for an automaker to rake in money, but will not be universally popular. This early example of GM’s changing business model ought to make the company a bundle while aggravating a certain percentage of consumers.

The company calls the free service “marketplace.” It recommends an array of local dining, lodging, and fueling locations you may want to use via your center console. Customers can use the system to access the items they want to purchase, order them through the app, and then (in some instances) pay from inside the car.

However, the only recommendations drivers will receive are affiliate brands that made a deal with GM to be included in the service. So, if you want gas, odds are good the system will point you toward a Shell or ExxonMobil station. If you want dinner, it’ll probably suggest Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s. You get the picture.

General Motors says the limited number of outlets should grow in the near future, claiming it has asked interested merchants to make contact if they’d like to be included in the service. Marketplace will be added wirelessly to all 2017 and 2018 model-year vehicles equipped with GM’s MyLink infotainment system. Owners are required to agree to the update, which the automaker began issuing last week. While it requires access to the car’s built-in wireless network, GM says it does not necessitate a paid data plan.

You’re probably wondering why you should care, given that most of these services are already available on your smartphone. GM has an answer for that.

“The average American spends 46 minutes per day on the road driving. Leveraging connectivity and our unique data capabilities, we have an opportunity to make every trip more productive and give our customers time back,” explained Santiago Chamorro, vice president for GM’s global connected customer experience. “Marketplace is the first of a suite of new personalization features that we will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months to nearly four million U.S. drivers.”

“For most retailers and consumer brands the daily commute is the only time not accessible in a consumers’ day,” he continued. “Marketplace gives merchants the ability to more safely engage with drivers and passengers in a meaningful way that provides true value for our customers.”

Marketplace is also said to be developed specifically for use while driving and minimizes physical interactions with the app. Not having used it, we cannot attest to it being safer or more convenient than stopping to whip out a phone. But, assuming it is, that would be a handy little service for commuters with tight schedules.

Using the machine-learning tech GM developed with help from IBM in 2016, marketplace uses real-time interaction data (driver location, time of day, and the customer’s digital information) to provide “highly personalized experiences.” That’s code for targeted in-car advertising and, if you’re alright with that, then you’ll probably be sweet on the service.

However, if the idea of your automobile tracking your purchasing behaviors and whereabouts turns you off, you should probably decline the update while you have the chance.

[Image: General Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 34 comments
  • Garrett Garrett on Dec 05, 2017

    This actually makes me want to go to my local GM dealer... ...and explain to them why they will not be getting any of my business.

  • Skeeter44 Skeeter44 on Dec 09, 2017

    This is nothing but Internet lite, doomed to fail. They are bringing out a new/better DVD player - why ? How can a large, seemingly competent, company as GM make such a mistake in today's hyper connected environment - especially amongst the young. Christ guys get your OnStar house together - license Yelp or Trip Advisor or even include Panera, Chipoltle or other obviously popular places rather than TGIF.

  • Lostjr Sedans have been made less practical, with low rooflines and steeply raked A pillars. It makes them harder to get in and out of. Probably harder to put a kid in a child seat. Sedans used to be more family oriented.
  • Bob Funny how Oldsmobile was offering a GPS system to help if you were lost, yet GM as a company was very lost. Not really sure that they are not still lost. They make hideous looking trucks, Cadillac is a crappy Chevy pretending to be fancy. To be honest, I would never step in a GM show room now or ever. Boring, cheap ugly and bad resale why bother. I get enough of GM when i rent on trips from airports. I have to say, does anybody at GM ever drive what everyone else drives? Do they ever then look at what crap they put out in style fit and finish? Come on, for real, do they? Cadillac updated slogan should be " sub standard of the 3rd world", or " almost as good as Tata motors". Enough said.
  • Sam Jacobs I want a sedan. When a buy a car or even rent one, I don’t want to ride up high. I don’t want a 5-door. I want a trunk to keep my stuff out of sight. It’s quieter, cars handle better, I don’t need to be at the same height as a truck. I have a 2022 Subaru Legacy Touring XT, best car ever, equipped as a luxury sedan, so quick and quiet. I don’t understand automakers’ decisions to take away sedans or simply stop updating them — giving up the competition. The Camry and Accord should not be our only choices. Impala and Fusion were beautiful when they were axed.
  • Spamvw I think you need to remember WHY the big 2 and 1/2 got out of the car business. Without going political, the CAFE standards signed into law meant unless you had a higher gas mileage fleet, you couldn't meet the standards.The Irony is that, the law made sedans so small with low roof lines, that normal people migrated to SUV's and Trucks. Now we get worse mileage than before.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Somehow, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai/Kia and Mazda are able to build sedans in North America AND turn a profit on those sedans at the same time.