With its 2013 Spark and just-released 2012 Sonic, Chevrolet is looking to pique the interest of a new generation of car buyers. To help woo the millennials to the bow-tie brand, Chevy is introducing a new touchscreen infotainment center that is navigation ready – all you need is an iPhone. According to General Motors, 90 percent of Sonic and Spark buyers already have a smart phone, so it seemed like a no-brainer to Chevy to integrate smartphone functionality into the car. The new head unit that will be available as a factory-ordered option on the 2013 Spark and 2013 Sonic has a high-resolution, easy-to-use touch screen and – get this, old timers – no CD player. As to be expected in cars marketed toward 20-somethings, there are standard auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity, Pandora and Stitcher internet radio, and a version of Chevy's MyLink infotainment suite. What makes this new system even better is the expansion capability. We got to play around with the new millennial-aimed MyLink system with Sara LeBlanc, GM's program manager for global infotainment systems. Spark and Sonic owners with an iPhone or Android smartphone will be able to purchase the GoGoLink app for their phones that, when plugged into the car via USB (for iPhones) or Bluetooth (for Androids), allow the touchscreen to function as a navigation system. Because the data is located on the phone and not within the car, owners with the app will be able to plug their smartphones into any GM car equipped with the head unit. The GoGoLink app also stores all of the map data locally on the phone, so it can be used purely as a map application on the phone and does not draw on the phone's data connection to load the maps. "Think of it as smart phone, dumb radio," LeBlanc enthusiastically told us. "We're trying to keep our customers simple, safe, and connected, yet give them all of the features they're looking for." LeBlanc reminded us that most embedded navigation systems available on cars today easily cost $1000 and up. (Chevrolet's own 2013 Malibu offers navigation as a $1020 option.) While official pricing for the MyLink touchscreen system hasn't been announced, LeBlanc was excited that the GoGoLink app will retail for "less than $50." Right now, MyLink is only a $100 option on the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox, but requires the addition of the $795 color touch radio with navigation. If Chevy can manage to price the MyLink system on the Sonic and Spark under Nissan's new compact navigation system (which runs between $500-$700, depending on the model), it may just have a hit on its hands. What Chevrolet won't talk about, though, is the future potential for the MyLink system. LeBlanc was excited about the fact that GM was pioneering this merger of phone and car apps (other similar systems frequently rely upon the phone’s data connection). If Chevy's system succeeds, it may herald in a new era of infotainment where things are stored on the drivers' phones -- the opportunities are virtually limitless. The first cars to get the new MyLink system will be 2013 Spark, which is on sale this summer, and will be standard on 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ models; following in the fall will be the 2013 Sonic LTZ and RS, which will have MyLink as standard. The GoGoLink app will be available in the Apple App Store and Android Market by the end of the year.
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