GM Wants Customers to Pay for Gas Without Leaving the Vehicle

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

General Motors is updating its on-board digital marketplace to allow customers to purchase fuel without ever having to leave the vehicle. You’ll still have to leave the confines of the vehicle to actually pump the gas, unless you live in New Jersey, but the exchange of money is handled entirely by the world’s first “in-dash fuel payment system.”

What a time to be alive.

The new service is available via the Shell widget, which is already featured on GM’s Marketplace app (providing directions to the nearest Shell station). The corporate collaboration allows respective patrons to select a nearby Shell station, use the map to navigate there, park, select a pump, fill up, and drive away. Payment is automatically charged through Shell’s Fuel Rewards program.

While Marketplace is available on all 2017 or newer Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and Cadillac vehicles, the Shell widget is only available on the Chevys. However, Automotive News reports that GM intends to expand the service to other brands later in the year, eventually making it available on 4 million vehicles by the end of 2018. That includes late-model cars that have already been purchased, as GM will just update the vehicle’s infotainment system remotely. You might not even notice anything has changed.

This author has been particularly harsh on automakers dipping into data acquisition, e-commerce, and in-car marketing as a new source of revenue — as well as the increased emphasis on compulsory connectivity. People are essentially giving up their privacy so companies can offer a handful of contrived conveniences and make a little extra money on each customer.

However, that doesn’t mean regular folks don’t want these features — especially if they can dissociate themselves from the potential downsides of implementation. If you don’t mind corporate partnerships trying to curry your favor or the prospect of a company selling your personal information, then this is a non-issue. But if those things are not to your liking, then you’re about to become to be exceptionally unhappy with the direction new cars are heading.

As other automakers rush to keep pace, General Motors is leading this particular charge in the United States. Marketplace was an incredibly smart addition, from a financial perspective, and has already yielded partnerships with various companies hoping the technology will help them reel in additional customers.

Marketplace already allows drivers to order and pay for things like drive-thru coffee and using it in conjunction with various franchises can also garner customers unique discounts. But critics claim the system’s design, which intends drivers to use the app while driving, is potentially hazardous. We’re of a similar mind, especially when it wouldn’t be any harder to book a table or hotel room via telephone.

“There’s nothing about this that’s safe,” National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman said last last year. “If this is why they want Wi-Fi in the car, we’re going to see fatality numbers go up even higher than they are now.”

General Motors maintains that Marketplace is easier to navigate than a standard cellphone and has been developed to require fewer steps. The company believes its dashboard apps are a safer alternative and aid in keeping people’s eyes off their mobile devices.

For now, the gassing widget is being run as a pilot program in Detroit, Seattle, and Houston. But the partnership between General Motors and Shell says the service will expand to the rest of the country in the coming months, eventually reaching more than 14,000 stations.

[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
  • Madferret9 Madferret9 on Apr 20, 2018

    Privacy concerns aside, this hardly seems more efficient than swiping my credit card. And it also locks you into buying gas from 1 company. I can't speak for everyone, but does anyone actually care/look at what brand of gas they are buying? I just go to the station that's convenient.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Apr 21, 2018

    Unless you live in a state with full-service gas stations (how many are left, two?), this is pretty pointless; you gon' get out the car anyhow.