Case | HBS Case Collection | September 2009 (Revised September 2014)

OnStar: Not Your Father's General Motors

by Clayton M. Christensen


After two years of less than stellar performance resulting in sales well below plan, senior management at General Motors (GM) mobile telecommunications service start-up, OnStar, recognized that without a substantial change in their strategy, support for the venture would dwindle. Chet Huber (HBS 1979) faced one of the toughest decisions of his career. He had to decide whether to press GM executives to approve a plan to factory install OnStar hardware on every vehicle it manufactured—a new strategy requiring a dramatic increase in the corporation's commitment to the struggling technology venture. The alternative would be to continue with the current strategy of selling OnStar as an aftermarket product at GM dealerships. GM produced over five million new vehicles a year. Installing OnStar on every vehicle could exponentially increase the subscriber base but would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and lead to an unknown number of changes both within OnStar and at GM factories.

Keywords: Change Management; Decision Choices and Conditions; Growth and Development Strategy; Corporate Strategy; Technology; Risk and Uncertainty; Joint Ventures; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Product Positioning; Risk Management; Auto Industry; Telecommunications Industry;


Christensen, Clayton M. "OnStar: Not Your Father's General Motors." Harvard Business School Case 610-029, September 2009. (Revised September 2014.)