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General Motors : OnStar faces firestorm over baby in locked car, tries to explain what happened

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08/14/2019 | 08:17pm EDT

Aug. 14--General Motors'OnStar was the target of social media backlash Wednesday over news reports that driver assistance system's operators failed to unlock a car with a baby trapped inside.

The incident, which OnStar said it is investigating, happened Tuesday near Miami. The GM service said it lacked access to the car after the owner's subscription had expired.

Christina Tuffords was loading her car in a public parking lot and had used her remote start to keep her 10-month-old daughter, Maddie, cool inside the car, a published report said. But Tuffords also left the keys inside with all the doors locked.

In a panic, Tuffords called police after calling OnStar, whose operator said the service could not unlock her car remotely because her account had expired.

"I'll do whatever it takes, I'll pay whatever amount of money it takes. Just please reactivate my service so you guys can unlock my car," the report said she told OnStar.

Police arrived, but they could not get the car open and officers reported the child's head was down and eyes closed. Finally, a bystander used a window punch tool to rescue Maddie, the report said.

OnStar is GM's in-vehicle driver's assistance program that offers subscribers such services as automatic crash response, stolen vehicle help, remote door unlock, navigation, vehicle diagnostics and hands-free calling. It also handles an array of medical emergencies.

In the United States and Canada, OnStar has about 5.5 million subscribers. Subscribers pay $24.99 a month or $240.90 a year for the OnStar Safety and Security plan that includes emergency services.

OnStar has a doctor on staff and in 2017 its emergency advisers handled about 115,000 calls in the U.S. and Canada. OnStar advisers are even known to help deliver at least two babies a year.

But the news of the incident set off a slew of criticism on social media.

"I can't believe that OnStar wouldn't make open the lady who locked her keys & BABY in the car because her the membership expired. That's crazy! I mean damn, there's no exception for emergencies like that. Her baby could've died," wrote Felicia7997

Another read: "OnStar refuses to open a door for a woman whose child was locked in a vehicle, because her account expired. When did money outweigh human decency and life. I sold my GM vehicle today. Screw you!" wrote Kevin33040.

Others complained that "getting paid was more important" than saving a child and some threatened to cancel their OnStar subscription.

Twitter user ariel_tanisha wrote, "cancelling my @OnStar subscription just saw where they couldn't unlock a car with a trapped child on a hot day bc the Mother's subscription had expired -- wtf"

In response to Twitter criticism, OnStar tweeted a series of responses explaining its procedures and said it is investigating the incident.

"We're hoping to clear up some confusion we're seeing about OnStar services. Our number one priority is the safety of our customers, and we take these situations very seriously. We are in the process of investigating the details of this incident. We understand the importance of someone needing emergency help while on the road, and that's why we encourage everyone to keep OnStar services activated in their vehicle."

The OnStar tweets went on to say, "To provide some understanding about how OnStar services work today, once an OnStar plan expires or is cancelled, the OnStar system is deactivated and our connection to the vehicle is removed. Currently, the only way to activate the system and restore that connection is by pushing the blue OnStar button inside the vehicle. Our advisors cannot restore that connection solely from their end, and without that connection, our systems are unable to deliver OnStar services to the vehicle."

Contact Jamie L. LaReau: 313-222-2149 or jlareau@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletter.


(c)2019 the Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News

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P/E ratio 2020 5,75x
EV / Sales2019 0,31x
EV / Sales2020 0,29x
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