Ford Motor Co. has delayed the launch of its Wingcast in-vehicle communications service until about mid-2002 from a previously planned introduction later this year, officials said on May 15. Ford unveiled Wingcast last July, joining General Motors Corp. in the race to add wireless safety, navigation, news, entertainment and other communications services in vehicles. Wingcast, a joint venture between Ford and Qualcomm Inc., was initially expected to be on 1 million vehicles by the end of 2002 and on all new Ford products by the end of 2004, Ford officials said last July. With the advent of telematics, drivers will soon be able, at the push of a button, listen to the latest news or sports scores from their favorite Web pages, verbally schedule appointments or hear directions to the nearest gasoline station or restaurant. Wingcast CEO Harel Kodesh told Reuters following a conference on telematics in Detroit that the service will now be ready in about 12 months. Ford spokesman Chris Vineyard added that the Wingcast technology is complicated, and said the company would prefer a short delay in the launch to get it right. The delay puts Wingcast further behind GM's OnStar telecommunications service, which since its launch in 1996 has grown to over 1 million subscribers. OnStar is available on 32 GM vehicles, or about half of its fleet. However, industry observers note that OnStar is losing money and wonder if consumers are prepared to pay a monthly subscriber fee for such services. When Wingcast was originally announced, officials said it would cost from $9 to $29 a month, depending on the level of service. Ford's Vineyard said the pricing structure may have changed since last July. Kodesh, a former Microsoft Corp. vice president, said Wingcast will be launched initially in North America, but the service could have more promise in Europe and Japan. Wingcast will eventually take over Ford's telematics operations already in place in Europe, he said. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. has also signed on to Wingcast, expected first on its Infiniti luxury vehicles. Wingcast is also talking with other automakers to use the service, according to Kodesh. Meanwhile, OnStar has announced further enhancements to its new Virtual Advisor service. Subscribers can now hear audio reports on entertainment information, including soap opera updates and horoscopes, in addition to e-mail, news, sports, weather and other services already offered.