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Volkswagen Offers Internet

San Francisco — A third car maker, Volkswagen, is adding the ability to access the Internet in the car.

Beginning Tuesday, a Wi-Fi hot spot from Autonet Mobile may be ordered for the Volkswagen Routan for $514 plus a $29 monthly fee. Consumers can purchase the hot spot from the approximately 600 Volkswagen dealerships in the U.S. or directly from the factory, when they order the car. The hot spot can also be rolled into the car’s financing, said Autonet Mobile CEO Sterling Pratz.

Autonet is already available on all Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles as a dealer and factory option, and it is offered on the Cadillac CTS Sports sedan. Chrysler’s version is supplied through Mopar and called Uconnect Web. Volkswagen’s version is also called Uconnect Web. 

By late July, Pratz expects that General Motors will broaden the hot spot to other vehicles beyond the Cadillac. Pratz also claimed that Autonet is working on a deal with another German car company.

“Now the Routan can come with Internet radio, Facebook and YouTube. That’s what people jump on. YouTube is replacing DVD, and Internet radio is replacing satellite radio, and [the car companies] know that. And they also know that IM and chatting are also important in the car.”

Between eight and nine out of 10 people said they would prefer the Internet in the car over a rear-seat DVD player, said Pratz, who added, “Volkswagen’s customer is what we’re finding our customer to be … The Volkswagen customer is on the Internet all the time.”

The Autonet hot spot uses an EV-DO cellular connection that is converted to Wi-Fi so that many passengers in the car can access the Internet simultaneously. Autonet claimed it manages the EV-DO connection down the packet layer, so the system holds on to packets and redistributes them to prevent dropped service. 

The Autonet Mobile hot spot is also sold through 450 car stereo and other retailers, up from 300 in March with recent additions including Car Toys and Advance Auto Parts. Penske dealerships are also now rolling out the unit, said Pratz. Penske operates 310 retail automotive franchises, representing 40 different brands and 25 collision-repair centers.

Pratz said the hot spot is performing well at Advance Auto Parts. “They went live two weeks ago, and they sold close to 100 in two weeks, and they are still rolling it out the stores. The marketing doesn’t start until July.” The 3,300-store chain will offer a promotion on the hot spot that includes a chance to win a trip to a NASCAR event, said Pratz.