December 2, 2020

GM to launch auto, home insurance business

DETROIT — General Motors said it is venturing back into the insurance business after a 12-year hiatus, using its OnStar telematics service to help determine a customer’s rates and assess damages after a crash.

In addition to auto coverage, the program will offer home and renters’ insurance. It will launch for GM employees in Arizona this quarter and be available to nonemployee customers nationwide by the end of 2021, the automaker said Wednesday.

It’s a key component to the “zero crashes” part of GM’s zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion mission, said Andrew Rose, president of OnStar Insurance Services. Customers can opt into sharing driving data for a usage-based insurance premium, or they can stick with traditional factors for rates.

“We want to give you feedback, if you ask for it, on all the ways that you can be safer on the road as part of our drive to zero crashes,” Rose told Automotive News. The program also will offer discounts for safe driving behavior, he said.

The agency is an independent entity of GM, separate from OnStar, with underwriting from American Family Insurance. GM previously operated GMAC Insurance from 1925 until 2008.

Back then, “we didn’t have the data that we have today. Our ability to understand the risk and translate that into discounts for the consumer is completely new,” said Rose, who joined GM 10 months ago after a career with traditional auto insurance providers.

Long term, OnStar Insurance plans to remove questions from the rating process that consumers consider unfair, he said.

“There are some questions that are head-scratchers for a lot of folks. Why do you need to know my education? Why do you need to know my occupation? Why are you pulling credit information into an insurance score? People don’t understand why that should be relevant to their insurance pricing,” he said.

As long as consumers consent to sharing driving information, OnStar Insurance plans to provide ratings based on the vehicle and how and where the customer drives it, he said.

“We, as a vehicle manufacturer, know your vehicle better than anybody else. Choosing safety features in your vehicle, you should be rewarded for that,” Rose said. “Our knowledge of you as a driver gives us another opportunity to win.”

Ford Motor Co.’s captive finance company, Ford Credit, also began rolling out its own usage-based insurance program state by state in February. The Ford program is underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance and its affiliates.

OnStar Insurance uses GM vehicles’ existing OnStar infrastructure to understand how customers drive and the status of their vehicles.

The insurance arm will use the same system OnStar uses to respond when drivers get into an accident, ask for turn-by-turn directions or need their vehicles unlocked.

OnStar Insurance, with customer consent, also can track other safety components, such as tire pressure.

“We can offer advice to our customers to say, ‘Your tires are underinflated and that could have an impact on your stopping distance and the risk you show to us,’ ” Rose said.

The system allows GM to see what part of a vehicle no longer functions after a crash, order parts, schedule a repair at a dealership and book a loaner vehicle.

It often takes insurance companies weeks to determine whether a vehicle is a total loss, but with GM’s knowledge of the vehicle and its data, OnStar Insurance can declare a vehicle a total loss within hours, Rose said.

Eventually, GM plans to bundle OnStar Insurance and GM Financial loans and leases into one payment, Rose said. Customers could receive discounts for using multiple GM products.

GM has collected 121 million gigabytes of data via the 4G LTE systems on 2016-2021 model year vehicles, Rose said, which will help the insurance arm assess risk.