With 2.5 million subscribers, the in-vehicle communications, navigation and emergency system is now a leading reason people say they buy a particular vehicle, according to data released by the company as the new, sixth generation of OnStar hardware was unveiled on February 27, said an article in the Detroit Free Press. That promises to be good news for GM, which wholly owns OnStar and offers it in 50 of its models as a $695 option, which includes the first year of service. GM says just over 50 percent of those new buyers renew the service, which starts at $16.95 a month and goes up to $34.95 a month the second year. And 70 percent of them say the next car they buy will have OnStar. The upgraded system features dramatically improved voice recognition capabilities that are most noticeable in cellular phone calls made from the vehicle. The more powerful voice recognition features have previously been found only on high-end luxury vehicles selling for $50,000 and up from competitors like Jaguar, the Infiniti Q45 and the Lexus EX series. But the most noticeable and welcome addition with Gen6 is what's called continuous digit dialing, developed by IBM. No longer do you have to painstakingly enunciate each digit of a telephone number one at a time, waiting for the OnStar system to repeat each back to you before proceeding. Now, you can spew out the numbers all at once, just as you'd say them in normal conversation. It's available now with most of GM's 2004 midsized SUVs and 360 and 800 model trucks. The rest of the GM line — and OnStar-equipped models from Volkswagen, Audi, Acura, Isuzu, Subaru and Lexus — are expected to have it by the end of the 2005 model year.