Automobiles

Dashboard Navigation Tools Threatened by Smartphones

Hard to compete with free app

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Tim Nixon, chief technology officer of General Motors Co. (GM)'s OnStar service, knew something was amiss when he saw his two sons taking the "suction-cup approach" to in-car navigation. They would turn their iPhones sideways, stick them to the windshield and use a free map app to find their way.

That represented a rejection of their father's life's work: Convincing car buyers to pay $1,500 or more for a dashboard navigation system with an 8-inch screen and elaborate graphics. Rather than scold his young-adult sons, Nixon came up with an answer: GM (GM) now offers a $50 map application for iPhones that can play on the dashboard touchscreen of a $12,170 Chevrolet Spark.