Chevy Spark to get phone-based nav system

2013 Chevy Spark MyLink touch screenTo appeal to new customers, Chevrolet is bucking tradition with some of its new models. The brand mostly known for big trucks has its eye on the subcompact car market. First, there was the Sonic, next comes the Spark. That second small car features something that Chevy hopes will attract young, tech-savvy customers: a phone-based navigation system.

In fact, Spark buyers will have the option to replace all of their in-car electronics with a smart phone. The optional head unit doesn’t have en embedded navigation system, or even a CD player, but it does have a touch screen with plenty of connectivity. Bluetooth, as well as auxiliary and USB jacks, make it easy to connect all sorts of devices. The system also includes Pandora and Stitcher radio, all controlled through Chevy’s MyLink.

Owners can purchase an app called GoGoLink, which allows smart phones to display navigation information on the car’s touch screen. The screen basically functions as a large monitor for the phone, which holds all of the navigation data. The app can also store maps on a Spark’ owners phone, and a GoGoLink-equipped phone can be used in any GM vehicle with the new head unit. That makes switching cars very convenient, but do 20-something millenials drive more than one car? iPhone users can plug in via USB, Android users need Bluetooth.

The MyLink touch screen is much less substantial than a full navigation system and CD player, so, theoretically, it will be cheaper. The navigation option on a 2013 Chevy Malibu costs $1,020, but Chevy has not announced prices for the phone-based alternative. The GoGoLink app will cost “less than $50,” according to Chevy. Nissan is offering an embedded navigation system for $500-$700, depending on the model; Chevy will have to match or undercut that to be competitive.Chevy Spark front three-quarter gray background

The new version of MyLink, with the phone-interfacing touch screen, will debut on the 2013 Spark this summer. It will be an option on certain Sonic models in the fall.

Chevy believes phone-based navigation will help it attract younger customers, particularly people who live off their smart phones. According to GM, 90 percent of potential Spark (and Sonic) owners have a smart phone. For those people, this system makes sense: it simplifies things by putting all relevant data on one device, and forgoing an embedded system might save money.

The question is: will people buy a car based solely on its smart phone connectivity? That will certainly be a strong selling point, but the rest of the Spark has to be good, too. After all, a car is more than just a four-wheeled extension of one’s iPhone. If people flock to MyLink, but ignore factors like fuel economy or ride comfort, it may indicate the beginning of a paradigm shift in car marketing.