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GM to make two safety features standard

/ Source: The Associated Press

General Motors Corp. plans to put two safety features _ OnStar in-vehicle communications service and electronic stability control _ in all of its vehicles by the end of 2010, the company said Sunday.

GM believes it would be the first automaker to make both features standard across its entire fleet, a spokesman said.

The world's largest automaker said OnStar will be included on all vehicles in 2007. Stability control will be standard on all GM sport utility vehicles and vans by the end of 2007 and on all cars and trucks by the end of 2010.

GM made the announcement during the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans.

GM North America President Gary Cowger said the technology "is another way to provide our customers an impressive combination of value, safety and peace of mind."

"Except for the growing use of safety belts, we have rarely seen a technology that brings such a positive safety benefit as electronic stability control," Cowger said.

Cowger declined to discuss the cost of adding the safety equipment or how it will affect a vehicle's price tag.

The first year of OnStar service will be free. After that, owners will have to pay $199 for a year or $16.95 a month to maintain the service. OnStar officials said the retention rate is 60 percent after the first year.

OnStar alerts emergency services when air bags deploy or the sides of the vehicle are hit in a moderate to severe crash. Around 3 million GM owners now have OnStar, which was first offered in 1997.

Electronic stability control systems first appeared in Europe in 1995 and are now standard on some luxury brands, including Mercedes, Audi, BMW and Infiniti. In November, GM and Ford Motor Co. announced they were making the systems standard on most SUVs. Chrysler Group quickly followed, saying it would make stability control standard on all its SUVs by 2006.

Stability control systems apply brakes to individual wheels if they sense the driver is swerving off course. Twenty-one percent of 2005 vehicles sold in the United States have the systems and an additional 19 percent offer them as an option, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Several recent studies have indicated the systems help drivers avoid accidents. IIHS, which is funded by insurers, found stability control could save up to 7,000 lives each year if it were standard equipment on all vehicles. In September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found stability control reduced one-car crashes by 35 percent when compared to the same models sold in prior years without the technology. The rate climbed to 67 percent for SUVs.