Subscriptions for car upgrades are madness

Let me be blunt: this idea is dumb, short-sighted, brand-destroying, and overhyped. And believe me, if it grows any further, it will be the dealerships and their employees who will bear the brunt of angry consumers directly.

Some of the world’s biggest automakers, including Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors, have all looked enviously at the potential revenue that could be generated by charging consumers a fee to activate or maintain certain vehicle functions.

Last fall, GM said it expected to make up to $25 billion in annual software and subscription services revenue by the end of the decade, based on its experience. with OnStar. VW is developing its own in-house software company partly because it thinks consumers will pay for temporary upgrades such as extra electric vehicle battery capacity or performance improvements. And Toyota has set up trial services for features on some of its new vehicles that turn off if not renewed.

These three are far from alone among automakers in their pursuit of even more powerful dollars. Last week, a misleading story that BMW was planning to charge for heated seats made the rounds online. The story was untrue, but BMW said it has made two new on-demand features available on select vehicles in the United States via software: a dash cam feature it calls BMW Drive Recorder and a remote engine start function.

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