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Opel CEO Neumann wants Opel to be a leader in connected-car technology (Photo: GM)

Opel joined the race to be the best connected car brand in Geneva Tuesday, when it announced that General Motors' OnStar connectivity suite will be available on all of its models starting this year.

Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann said OnStar will be rolled out in 13 European markets by the middle of 2015, with other countries to follow later. The service, which Opel parent GM has for years already been marketing to customers in North America and China, will be free of charge in Europe for one year. The offer includes any roaming fees that might be due when crossing European borders.

Neumann said at a press briefing in Geneva that Opel, whose product range features mostly small and mid-sized cars, has aspirations to play in the major car-connectivity leagues. "Our clear goal is to be an industry leader in vehicle connectivity," he said.

Opel already offers a well-reviewed connectivity system called Intellilink, but the brand hopes to capitalize on the much more widely used OnStar system, which GM first launched in 1996.

Opel OnStar will offer car owners a range of connected safety, security and infotainment features, including a 4G mobile in-car hotspot as well as remote vehicle diagnostics and access to various car features. It also provides a concierge service, the ability to upload destinations directly to the car's navigation and an emergency alert function.

Neumann said Opel has added a privacy feature to the OnStar system, which lets drivers push a button to no longer reveal their car's location. The function is automatically disabled if a car needs to transmit its location following a serious accident.

The 13 European markets where Opel cars will have OnStar are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. OnStar is already available on 7 million cars in the US, Canada, Mexico and China.