Automakers Are Making Basic Car Functions A Costly Subscription Service… Whether You Like It Or Not


from the steering-as-a-service dept

Automakers are increasingly obsessed with turning everything into a subscription service in a bid to boost quarterly returns. We’ve noted how BMW has embraced making heated seats and other features already in your car a subscription service, and Mercedes has been making better gas and EV engine performance something you have to pay extra for — even if your existing engine already technically supports it.

There are several problems here. One, most of the tech they want to charge a recurring fee to use is already embedded in the car you own. And its cost is already rolled into the retail cost you’ve paid. They’re effectively disabling technology you already own, then charging you a recurring additional monthly fee just to re-enable it. It’s a Cory Doctorow nightmare dressed up as innovation.

The other problem: absolutely nobody wants this shit. Surveys have already shown how consumers widely despise paying their car maker a subscription fee for pretty much anything, whether that’s an in-car 5G hotspot or movie rentals via your car’s screen. Now another new study indicates that consumers are unsurprisingly opposed to this new effort to expand subscription features:

A new study from Cox Automotive this week found that 75% of respondents agreed with the statement that “features on demand will allow automakers to make more money.” And 69% of respondents said that if certain features were available only via subscription for a particular brand, they would likely shop elsewhere.

Automakers of course couldn’t give any less of a shit what you want. They’re trying to please Wall Street investors’ often myopic demand for improved quarterly returns, often at any cost. It doesn’t matter that you’re angering customers or harming your brand, the idea that you can promise Wall Street a massive, ever-soaring, additional source of new revenues is all they give two shits about.

The problem, of course, is that this opens up the option for an upstart disruptor to come in and “innovate” simply by not being an annoying asshole. But still, if the industry does this persistently enough, over a long enough time frame, the window of what dictates “acceptable” automaker behavior shifts in their favor, resulting in opinions like this one:

“I don’t think [features on demand] is going away, and also as the cars get more and more sophisticated, get more and more functionality, then it just feels like a natural progression,” Edmund’s Weaver says, also noting he too has gotten used to these add-on features, and their costs, for his personal vehicle.

There’s a whole bunch of additional unintentional consequences of this kind of shift. Right to repair folks will be keen on breaking down these phony barriers, and automakers will increasingly respond by doing things like making enabling tech you already own and paid for a warranty violation.

And, of course, instead of our regulatory gerontocracy getting out ahead of it to protect the consumer from bullshit fees, they’ll incompetently figure out it’s a problem a decade after the fact, then pass terrible laws, likely co-written by the auto industry, making everything decidedly worse.

Filed Under: cars, fees, subscriptions

Las Vegas News Magazine

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