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Shanghai OnStar's Diane Jurgens and her grand China adventure

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 17, 2015
If staying busy is the secret to happiness, Diane Jurgens can tell you all about it.

"We've faced a challenge in China because the model of giving away a service for free here is very strong," she said. "In restaurants, there's no tipping, since the thinking is that it's that person's job to provide the meal you have, so you don't pay for the service separately. But we've demonstrated the value of delivering our OnStar service, much more than competitors. We had to really study China to understand the things that people would value, but we've been very successful in getting there."

Jurgens said that while OnStar offers the connectivity of a vehicle to the Internet, it's "much more than that." A big difference between Chinese and American consumers is that "our customers are very tied into social media and personal connections, and since one in 10 people own a car and entire families get together to buy a single car, if you can share that experience, that's valuable.

"We're trying to position OnStar as a service that connects you, your car and your friends. By using WeChat, which is used by nine out of 10 people, we take the friction out of the process and go where people already are."

Fitting life and career together
Amid the challenges of growing Shanghai OnStar, Jurgens said adjusting to life in China took a while. GM offers its workers abroad a range of home and family services that have helped. Still, there are frequent concerns, including avoiding potentially dangerous air pollution in the crowded city of Shanghai, with its 14 million people.

Jurgens said she often checks the U.S. Consulate's website for air quality in Shanghai when at work or home to avoid being outside when the air quality rating is hazardous. Recently, an American colleague was visiting the city and said after several days she had suddenly noticed the need to use an inhaler to breath easily. After confirming a high pollution rating that day on the website, her colleague avoided being outside during midday when the pollution peaked.

On the busy streets and sidewalks, Jurgens said Chinese residents tend to wear surgical masks to deal with the pollution. "It's just one of those things about Shanghai and I don't dwell on it. I deal with it," she said. "Food, water and air quality are all just part of living here."

Jurgens tries to stay fit with frequent walks on city sidewalks and at indoor malls when the mercury tops 100 degrees in the summer. "You have to be very careful not to get run over by the electric bikes that are everywhere, but I get a lot more than 15,000 steps a day and it's been very helpful."


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