GM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module Teardown

30 June 2011
The following is an overview of a teardown analysis conducted by IHS Benchmarking.

Overview / Main Features

The GM OnStar service revolves, at its core, around this module which provides the wireless link to the OnStar network via CDMA network, via what appears to be their relationship with Verizon (in the US) who provides the service (that is invisible to users).

This ninth-generation module is built by LG Electronics, which is surprising at first glance as the previous generation was built by Continental, who also manufactures the Ford Sync. In some ways - this may be a good thing for GM - as we would expect LGE to have more leverage and pay less of an 'automotive premium' and have more pricing leverage in general, especially in the area of wireless chipsets.

Major features of the module remain similar to the last generation - CDMA Connectivity (via Qualcomm chipset), Bluetooth Connectivity (employing a CSR chip), and GPS positioning (using a CSR SiRF GSC3 chip). However, the upgrade is more prominent from the hardware design prospective which will be discussed in latter paragraphs.

As stated above, main focus of the OnStar (at least the manner it is portrayed in the popular press) is its ability to locate and contact emergency services automatically in case of an accident. Other added telematics functions includes remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle location.

GM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module Main ImageGM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module Main Image

Target Market

GM & their OnStar division as well as selected Vehicles manufacturers such as Saab.


There is no specific release date for the OnStar Gen 9 but it is widely available in GM's 2011 Model Year vehicles

GM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module - Main PCB TopGM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module - Main PCB Top

Pricing and Availability

Pricing - the OnStar hardware comes standard in all GM vehicles. However, the service, ranging from basic connection, emergency to unlimited turn-by-turn navigation services, costs from $18.95 to $28.90 monthly or $199 to $299 yearly.

Availability - In North America, the OnStar system is standard equipment on GM vehicles. It is also available on selected Saab vehicles.

Volume Estimations

For the purposes of this teardown analysis, we have assumed a lifetime production volume of 2 million units over approximately 2 years (it is assumed that each generation design cycle is approximately 2 year).

As a reminder, teardown volume production assumptions are primarily used for our cost analysis in terms of amortized NRE and tooling costs, especially for custom components specific to the model being analyzed (mechanical components especially).

GM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module - Main PCB BottomGM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module - Main PCB Bottom

Main Cost Drivers Representing ~67% of total materials cost

Qualcomm - QSC6055 - Baseband / RF Transceiver / Power Management - Single-Chip, Multi-Band CDMA2000 1X
Freescale Semiconductor - SPC5200CVR400B - Microprocessor - 32-Bit, 400MHz, MPC603e Series e300 Core
Enclosure, Main, Top - Die-Cast Aluminum Alloy
Spansion - S29GL512P10TFIR20 - Flash - NOR, 512Mb, 100ns, 3V
CSR - GSC3e/LPa - GPS - SiRFstarIII, Single Chip, 50MHz ARM7TDMI CPU, 1Mb SRAM, 20-Channel GPS, 10 GPIO Ports
LG - LBMA-2C66B - Bluetooth Module - V2.0+EDR, W/ UART, USB & PCM Interface
4-Layer - FR4, Lead-Free
Maxim - MAX1138EEE+ - ADC - 10-Bit, 12-Channel, 2-Wire Serial
Micron Technology - NAND512R3A2CZA6 - Flash - NAND, 512Mb, SLC, 1.8V
Maxim - MAX1745EUB+ - Regulator - DC-DC Controller, Step-Down, Adjustable Output Voltage
6-Layer - FR4/RCF HDI, 1+4+1, Lead-Free
Maxim - MAX15023ETG+ - Regulator - DC-DC Controller, Step-Down, PWM, Synchronous, 1MHz
Enclosure, Main, Bottom - Stamped / Formed Aluminum
Avago - ACFM-7103-TR1 - Quintplexer - FBAR, CDMA 850/1900, & GPS
Micron Technology - MT46H16M16LFBF-6IT:H - SDRAM - Mobile DDR, 256Mb (16Mx16), 6ns, 1.8V

Direct Materials + Manufacturing $82.96

GM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module Cost AnalysisGM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module Cost Analysis

What Is Not Included in our Cost Analysis

The total materials and manufacturing costs reported in this analysis reflect ONLY the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), AND manufacturing with basic test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the material manufacture of the core device itself - cost of intellectual property, royalties and licensing fees (those not already included into the per component price), software, software loading and test, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and the OEM's margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device and exceptionally in some circumstances the packaging and literature as well.

Manufacturing Notes

OEM/ODM/EMS Relationships / Manufacturing

The OEM for this Gen9 OnStar unit is LG Electronics who have extensive wireless design experience with their mobile handset business. Previously we have seen Continental manufacture the OnStar module in the Gen8 devices.

Country of Origin / Volume Assumptions

Based on the fact that LG electronics is building the OnStar Gen. 9, we assume that the unit was assembled in Korea. Furthermore, we have assumed that custom mechanicals (plastics, metals, etc.) were sourced also sourced in Korea.

Country of origin assumptions relate directly to the associated cost of manufacturing, where calculated by iSuppli. In the cases of 'finished' sub-assemblies (such as stand-alone Bluetooth modules), we do not calculate internal manufacturing costs, but rather assess the market price of the finished product in which case country of origin assumptions may or may not have a direct effect on pricing.

Remember also that labor rates are applied directly only to hand inserted components and systems in our bill of materials, and although regional assumptions do, these new rates do not have a direct effect on our modeled calculations of placement costs for automated SMD assembly lines. "Auto inserted components (such as SMT components) placement costs are calculated by an iSuppli algorithm which allocates a cost per component based on the size and pincount of the device. This calculation is affected by country or region of origin as well.

Design for Manufacturing / Device Complexity

This design, at a modular level consists of two PCBs and a basic 2-piece enclosure. It is, like most other automotive modules we have seen basic in this respect. It is, after all, just a module, and not requiring direct user interface (buttons, lights, displays, etc.) always make such modules simple.

Given the functionality of the device, the component count of 1102 seem quite high, especially when compared to the last generation of the device which has less than 1000 components. However, taking a closer look, these ""excess" components are passives which relatively do not add much to overall manufacturing complexity.

It should also be noted that although the components count seem high, the manufacturing of the device is primarily an automated SMT 'pick-and-place' dominated design, with manual labor representing a very small fraction of the whole (integrating the two PCBs into the enclosure).

Component counts have a direct bearing on the overall manufacturing cycle times and costs, and also can increase or decrease overall yields and re-work. Our calculations of manufacturing costs factor counts and more qualitative complexities in the design.

Note that manual labor has a much smaller effect on auto-insertion assembly lines (for the Main PCB, for example), where manufacturing costs are much more capital equipment intensive and driven by these investment costs.

Design Notes

The major difference in terms of hardware design is the wireless interface chipsets. In this latest generation of OnStar, a Qualcomm Single-Chip QSC Solution is used instead of the Gen 8's multi-chip MSM platform.

Implementing the design employing the QSC chip provides 2 main advantages:

1) Reduce components count and board estate - The gen 8 design requires 5 Qualcomm ICs ranging from baseband to power management while the gen 9, employing the QSC solution, only require 1 QSC6055 IC. On top of that, the IC measures only 12mm x 12mm while the MSM baseband IC in gen 8 is 15mm x 15mm by itself already.

2) Lowered solution cost as the QSC itself is a ""low-cost" solution - In addition to reducing the number of ICs required (and thus reducing cost), cost is lowered through improved process technology of the chip itself.

Another difference is the memory content, which jumps from 128Mb to 768Mb for DRAM and 192Mb to 512Mb for NOR Flash. The upgrade in memory is likely due to more demanding software / firmware and other interfacing functions.


GM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module - Disassembly 2GM (LG) OnStar Gen 9 Module - Disassembly 2

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