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

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Cox Automotive received responses from 217 potential car buyers about their feelings about the subscription model for vehicle features and services. Given the roughly 16 million new cars sold in the US each year, that’s a small sample size; however, the responses are no different from what we would expect based on the number of comments on the topic. According to Cox, 75% of respondents gave up on the idea of ​​paying an annual or monthly fee for almost any kind of car item. Remote start, heated seats, automatic emergency braking system and lane assistant? At least 87% of the car buying public surveyed believe all that equipment should be part of the suggested retail price.

There’s a lot of wiggle room with useful 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 has subscribed to a cell phone service provider.

So what about a quarter of respondents who are prone to revolving payments for features? Cox says there are three groups of features for which the 25% will relentlessly excel, and this group goes against 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 like to subscribe to in-car Wi-Fi (even though there is currently a monthly fee for the service). This group also said they would be willing to switch for power upgrades and some OTA updates, but only a minority (of the minority) said they would be willing to pay for more range for their electric vehicle.

Despite the small sample size, carmarkers could see this as a win. We doubt Cox Automotive would have come close to a 25% approval rating for its subscription services ten years ago. Remember, 20 years ago, we used to go on road trips with paper maps and buy entertainment on physical media that we owned. Now, for example, Audi wants $85 a month or $850 a year for Navigation Plus with full-speed Wi-Fi. Automakers just need to persevere. In the end, subscriptions just become the way things are done. But the part where automakers remind buyers when buyers don’t pay for or subscribe to a feature, as one Redditor found Audi does with an HVAC feature on its Q4 E-tron, pictured above — well, that’s just, let’s say unnecessary.

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