When Chrysler takes the wraps off its newly redesigned 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV in a few days, it will have a feature that no car has ever offered before: a smart-phone application that provides vehicle information.
"We will be the first in the industry to introduce free, downloadable vehicle owner-information apps for smart phones," said Pietro Gorlier, head of Chrysler Group's parts unit, Mopar, in announcing the feature Thursday. Information that used to be stuffed into the glove compartment will now be at consumers' fingertips, Chrysler says.
App-based information for the Grand Cherokee will be available starting Saturday. Free apps for all other Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles will be available by year-end as part of a new initiative introduced by Mopar for the U.S. market, The Detroit News reported.
The technology isn't merely meant as a way to reduce glove box clutter. It's also a marketing tool, since anyone can download information about Chrysler vehicles, such as operating instructions, maintenance schedules and warranties.
"We think it will enhance the traffic, giving the customer the opportunity to learn about the vehicle on their smart phone first and then visit the dealership to experience the vehicle," Gorlier said.
The app also allows people to connect with fellow owners via social media, and provides contact information for customer and roadside assistance. Though designed for new vehicles, Chrysler is looking at making the app available for older models, the News said.
Stealing Hyundai's Thunder
Last year, Chrysler took the first step in replacing thick paper owners manuals last year by instead offering DVDs and condensed user guides.
The app, which will be available in English and only for the U.S. market, was developed by Michigan-based Tweddle Group and will first be available on Apple (AAPL) iPhones and iPads, and later on BlackBerry (RIMM) and Android (GOOG) devices. Major mobile carriers supporting the app will include AT&T (T), Verizon Wireless (VZ), T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom (DT), and Sprint Nextel (S).
In introducing the first-ever car-info app, struggling Chrysler pulled off a coup of sorts. Hyundai said in April that purchasers of its new Equus luxury sedan would receive the owner's manual on an Apple iPad. But the Equus, with a base price of about $48,000, doesn't hit showrooms until September.
The Grand Cherokee, by the way, starts at a slightly more affordable $31,000. You will, however, have to supply your own iPad.
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