Car companies stand to make billions by charging you monthly fees for add-on features like heated seats

How would you feel about paying $5 each month for the ability to lock and unlock your car from a distance through an app? What about a $25-per-month charge for advanced cruise control or $10 to access heated seats? What if those charges continued long after your car was paid off?

Not content with the relatively low-margin business of building and selling cars, automakers are eager to pull down Silicon Valley-style profits. But unlike with Netflix, you won’t be able to use your ex-girlfriend’s uncle’s login in your new BMW.

For automakers, the advantage of this model is clear. Not only do they get a stream of recurring revenue for years after an initial purchase, they can hope to maintain a longer-term relationship with the customer and build brand loyalty, said Kristin Kolodge, vice president and head of auto benchmarking and mobility development at J.D. Power.

Brands including Lexus, Toyota, and Subaru invite owners to pay for the convenience of being able to lock or start their cars remotely through an app. In some BMWs, you can pay to unlock automatic high-beam headlights, which dim for oncoming traffic. In 2020, BMW floated the idea of pay-as-you-go heated seats and steering wheels. General Motors and Ford both offer subscription plans for their hands-free highway driving systems.

Automakers run the risk of making customers feel like they’re paying twice — once for a function to be built into a vehicle and again to activate it, Kolodge said. They may have more luck asking people to subscribe to brand-new services, rather than familiar features, she added.

Still, automakers see dollar signs. Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), Ford, and GM each aim to generate at least $20 billion in annual revenue from software services by 2030.

Over-the-air capabilities open up huge opportunities for carmakers to introduce new subscription or pay-per use features over time, Wakefield, of AlixPartners, said. Someday, you may be able to fork over extra to make your car more efficient, sportier, or — in an electric vehicle — unlock extra range for road trips.

Very simply, fuck you, no.

A new truck is well over $50,000 for anything other than a bare bones work truck.

Payments on a new truck are easily over $800 per month (ask me how I know).

So on top of the payment for the truck, I’m now going to have to pay for all the options I wanted as a monthly fee?

And let me guess, they will be seasonally priced.

So I want to run the Max A/C setting in the South in summer it’s going to be $25 per month.

And there is literally no end to what this can do.

Did you want the high horsepower sports package?  That’s $50 per month or we leave the limiter on.

The new car market will die.

People will hang onto used cars and keep fixing them until they disintegrate into rust.

People will not stand to pay monthly subscription charges for options they used to pay for once.

Or there will be an entire sub-industry of jail breaking cars to unlock all the options without a fee.

Ultimately it means I’m done buying new cars and I know I’m not alone.

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By J. Kb

21 thoughts on “My used trucks just went up in value again”
  1. This will also create a sub-branch of “mods” to bypass all this app pay-as-you-go b.s. the automakers want to slam down the throats of consumers.
    Just browse around car forums & chat rooms and you’ll see what I mean. 😉

  2. No thank you. I hate living by subscription, especially for things that by their nature don’t require it.

    That’s like paying a monthly fee to the electric company per light bulb, in addition to the cost of the power.

  3. People will hang onto used cars and keep fixing them until they disintegrate into rust.

    The problem with this is what I’m going through right now. I’m driving a 2009 Ford Explorer. Last September the ABS module failed. In terms of actual impact on driving, let’s say “zero point zero.” Brakes are fine. Yeah, it doesn’t have Anti-Lock Brakes anymore but neither did any other car I had in the 40 years before I got this one, and neither does my wife’s ’13 car.

    What happens, though, is every five minutes that the car is on, an alarm goes on with the driver’s display turning red and saying “SERVICE RSC NOW”. The alarm seems calibrated to be the loudest continuous sound they can make without invoking OSHA rules for how loud it is – 80 dBA. I tried every small shop I could to get the module and nobody had it. “Chip shortage” “Supply chain”… I signed up with the dealership because they claimed they had a way to get them. We’re going on 5 months. It’s hard to get across just how annoying that is.

    I can’t fix it. It’s broken and the parts to fix it aren’t available. That’s all they’ve got to do to make you buy their newer pieces of crap. I hardly ever drive it because of that.

    1. The other problem is that the state will make you fix that, because of a requirement for inspections every year and the rule that you don’t pass if the “service required” light is on.
      We have that right now with our BMW diesel car, which has some sort of EGR alert that requires sacrificing various virgins to Stuttgart to reset. It’s the second time that happened. No more BMW in our future; those f*** excuses for engineers don’t deserve their jobs.

      1. It maybe under factory recall. The N57 engine used in our X5 BMW has a known problem with the EGR cooler leaking, and they’ve had all kinds of problems with the urea systems and other bits and pieces. Got a recall notice the other day for it.

        Get someone to read the code.

        And no, I will NEVER buy a brand new car…

  4. I have no doubt that there will be aftermarket ways to edit these ECUs/BCMs to allow these features, but you’d be risking your warranty on those systems. Out of warranty, have at it.

  5. I suspect that bypassing the paywalls on your car’s infotainment / comfort systems will end up being deemed an EPA offense, as well as a DMCA violation.

    Subscription-based everything is the new hotness… one flavor of “you will own nothing, and you’ll like it!”
    A few years ago, Cadsoft EAGLE, the schematic/PCB design package I’d been using since forever, became Autodesk EAGLE, and, despite early assurances to the contrary, Autodesk put all new versions on subscription-based licensing, with the software locking up if it couldn’t verify the subscription status at least once per fortnight. For CAD software being used for any serious purposes – especially on projects that might need to be maintained for a couple of decades! – this was unacceptable, so I stopped buying the updates and started looking around for alternatives. (KiCad is almost there at this point, and I still need to try out Altium’s Circuit Studio, which might be able to exchange files with a client’s full-blown Altium.)

      1. I’ve run into both of these (plus the fact that CS5 started crashing on every exit). My answer in both cases was to switch to open source. KiCAD is better than Eagle anyway in my usage, and GIMP and Inkscape, while not quite up to Adobe levels, are quite good enough for my needs.

        1. Just a few years ago, KiCad was very much not ready for prime time. Recently, I’ve played a little with v6.0, which (though the documentation needs to catch up) looks very promising indeed. Schematic/PCB integration now seems to be almost as convenient as EAGLE (and might turn out to be better in some cases). Main thing lacking is autorouter integration; my typical use of EAGLE involved placement, hand routing of most power and ground connections plus a few critical traces and adding some keepouts, then typically a few iterations of autorouting, checking for a reasonable approximation of completion, and either tweaking the placement and retrying the autoroute or deciding it was close enough and doing some manual cleanup (in v6, in particular, the autorouter and DRC didn’t quite agree on interpretation of design rules).
          GIMP is fine for my purposes, too. Inkscape is often useful, as are various components of LibreOffice.
          One of these days, I should really learn to use FreeCAD; it seems to have a nice feature set, but so far I’ve found the UI quite incomprehensible (I currently use VariCAD, which is quirky in its own ways). There are tutorials out there; I just need to find the time and attention span.

          1. Re FreeCAD: I use it a fair amount, but not the GUI at all. Instead, I use the Python scripting; I have a model of a spacecraft that’s quite detailed. It includes export to POVray (a better one than the stock one included in FreeCAD).
            I’ve also played a bit with the KiCAD -> FreeCAD export. Promising, but not quite ready yet.

            1. Scripting! Ah, yes: gotta check that out (though I’ve never made heads nor tails of Python; I can use C, PHP, and Ruby just fine, and Scheme somewhat, but there’s something about Python syntax that rubs me the wrong way).
              Real scripting is something VariCAD is notably lacking, and I keep wanting to use little Ruby scripts to take parameters and spit out scripts for generating 3D parts.

  6. Next up, $25/month to rent the air in your tires. If you opt out, your tire pressure monitoring system will deflate your tires and lock out your ignition. A restoration fee of $200 will be required to reset the system.

  7. Does your state have a “right to repair” law? Ask John Deere tractor owners about trying to fix their own equipment or having a non-authorized repairman. Apparently most of their error codes read something like “call your dealer for an appointment.” On a Friday evening at 1800 during planting season they can’t know if the problem is a faulty tire pressure gage and can be ignored to continue planting over the weekend or something serious. They have to wait until Monday for the repairman to respond. I wouldn’t be surprised if the auto industry is taking notes.

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