Subscription model for car features gets a big thumbs down, for now

·2-min read



Cox Automotive managed to get responses from 217 potential car shoppers about their feelings on the subscription model for vehicle features and services. Considering the 16 million or so new cars sold every year in the U.S., that's a tiny sample size; however, the responses don't veer from what we'd expect based on the volume of comments on the subject. According to Cox, 75% percent of respondents shut down the idea of paying an annual or monthly fee for almost any kind of in-car item. Remote start, heated seats, automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist? At least 87% of the surveyed car-buying public believes all that equipment should all be part of the MSRP.

There's leeway with convenience features like in-car wi-fi and vehicle tracking. This is probably because almost everyone, regardless of vehicle ownership, is familiar with GPS trackers or subscribing to a cellphone service provider.

So what about the one-quarter of respondents who are amenable to ongoing payments for features? Cox says there are three groups of features the 25% will incessantly shell out for, this group running counter to the 75% in more ways than one. The minority wouldn't mind paying for safety features like automatic emergency braking and stolen vehicle tracking, but would mind subscribing for in-car wi-fi (even though there's monthly fee for the service right now). This group also said they'd be willing to fork over for power upgrades and some OTA updates, but only a minority (of the minority) said they'd be willing to pay for more range for their electric vehicle.

Despite the small sample, carmarkers could see this as a victory. We doubt Cox Automotive would have gotten anywhere close to a 25% approval rating for the subscription services in question ten years ago. Remember, 20 years ago we still made road trips with paper maps and we bought entertainment on physical media that we owned. Now Audi, for instance, wants $85 per month or $850 per year for Navigation Plus with full-speed wi-fi. Carmakers only have to hang on. Eventually, subscriptions will become just the way things are done. But the part where automakers remind buyers when buyers don't pay for a feature or subscribe to it, as one Redditor found Audi does with an HVAC function on his Q4 E-tron, pictured above — well, that's just, shall we say, unnecessary.

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