GM partners with Amazon for in-car delivery

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News

The world’s largest online retailer is partnering with General Motors Co. and Volvo Cars to launch in-car package deliveries as connected vehicle technology becomes more sophisticated. Inc. is hoping a new in-car delivery service will serve as a more palatable alternative to doorstep delivery than allowing couriers into their homes even as GM and Volvo hope to lure younger, tech-savvy new car buyers.

The new service is powered by Amazon Key. The program allows couriers to deliver packages inside customers’ homes — and now newer GM and Volvo cars — via keyless entry and connected car services like GM’s OnStar.

The new alliance is another quiet step forward for OnStar, GM’s 21-year-old connectivity feature that rose at the same time as cellphones. Those simultaneous advancements often caused industry observers to question the relevance of a service that makes emergency phone calls, provides on-demand navigation or locks your doors. But in recent years, GM has used OnStar to provide advanced technology like WiFi and LTE hotspots to its vehicles.

“Further down the line, connected cars are the future,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst for AutoTrader. “We’ll see more of these kinds of connected services before we see self-driving cars being ubiquitous.

“OnStar provides a platform to offer a lot of different kinds of services and (in-car package delivery) is just a new twist on that,” she said, adding that OnStar is a competitive advantage for the Detroit automaker. “For GM, it’s OnStar that makes it possible, and that does provide GM an advantage to offering these kind of connected services.”

In-car package delivery for GM vehicles comes nearly five months after the Detroit automaker rolled out its new shop-and-drive Marketplace app, an addition to GM infotainment systems that allows drivers to order coffee and food and even pay for gas from behind the steering wheel.

Marketplace is independent from OnStar. But it achieves the same initial goal GM set out to achieve when it rolled out the connected service in the late 1990s: to transform the car, truck and SUV into a communication platform able to reach the world.

Eligible GM and Volvo owners can ask for packages to be delivered to their parked vehicle in a publicly accessible area, such as on the street in front of an apartment building, a surface parking lot or a home driveway.

To set up the in-car delivery service, vehicle owners need to first download the Amazon Key app. Within the app, your Amazon account can be linked to your OnStar or Volvo’s On Call account. Once the accounts are linked, customers just need to select the in-car delivery option at checkout.

“Partnering with Amazon to leverage our embedded in-vehicle connectivity gives Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners the option to conveniently receive deliveries inside their vehicle parked at home, work or near other locations in their Amazon address book,” Alan Batey, GM’s president of North America, said in a statement. “This is another example of how we provide customers with technologies that add value and enhance the ownership experience.”

The service, free to Amazon Prime members, currently is available in 37 cities in the U.S. — including Detroit — with more expected to follow. On products eligible for in-car delivery, the service works with same day, two-day and standard shipping. Customers will receive a notification in their Amazon Key app when a delivery is on its way and after the delivery is completed and the vehicle is relocked.