DETROIT — General Motors Corp. announced plans Monday to link its 9,700 U.S. dealers to a satellite system by late 1992 that will replace public telephone lines and form the cornerstone of a futuristic "Buck Rogers" communications network.
Called Pulsat, the new system will be the world's largest private satellite network and connect virtually all operations of the giant auto maker.
GM will pay for the installation of a Hughes satellite dish at each dealership, which is expected to be compatible with most dealers' computer screens, said Duncan Brodie, director of dealer systems and communications for GM.
The cost of the system is not expected to increase dealers' communications expenses. GM will also pay for a comprehensive training program for dealers and GM employees, Brodie said.
GM declined to say how much the system or training will cost, although Brodie acknowledged that a key goal of Pulsat is to realize future savings by reducing its use of land-based lines.
While Pulsat will initially provide rapid exchange of information on purchasing costs, warranty, service and recall data, it also could eventually provide dealers with electronic shop manuals, electronic vehicle invoicing and the next generation of vehicle diagnostics.
"The 'Buck Rogers' concept is becoming reality," said Brodie.
Pulsat is also viewed as one of the first practical applications of GM's multibillion-dollar purchases of Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS) and Hughes Aircraft Co. in 1984 and 1985, respectively.
"This is the most specific effort at this point in time, and it is the first time we have combined the specific talents of both EDS and Hughes," Brodie said, adding that the concept of a massive satellite network began about 15 months ago and included dealers to design the system.
"The system we're using today was started in 1976 and has limited capacity," Brodie said, noting that the satellite and a backup unit are already in orbit. "This will give us greater capacity, higher speed and more reliability."
Brodie conceded that Pulsat may in some cases allow dealers to reduce staff, noting that dealerships in general "are under tremendous financial burdens."
EDS will provide the development and implementation of the system, while GM Hughes' Hughes Network System will provide the satellite technology and dishes.
GM plans to install about 400 dishes a month after a test program involving 200 dealers is completed late this year.
Chrysler Corp. is now linking its 5,300 dealers via Hughes-built satellites under a program to be fully operational this fall.