These Automakers Are Charging Monthly Subscription Fees for Features
Imagine: A future in which you can never truly own your car or truck because you must pay recurring subscriptions for even the most basic features. Let your $100+ in monthly payments lapse? Say goodbye to your radio, air conditioning, or even being able to drive at highway speeds. And before you say this is ludicrous, know that an increasing number of automakers are brainstorming as many ways as possible to shake future drivers down for hundreds of dollars in monthly subscriptions–for life. Here are some of the worst offenders.
You might think paying subscription fees for features is a problem only luxury vehicle drivers face. But of the Detroit Three, General Motors is by far the worst offender, and Chevrolet owners must pay up too. GM told investors it’s aiming to gouge its average driver for $135/month for life (Tech Crunch). For example, OnStar Premium now costs $50/month. How will Chevy make up the rest of its monthly subscription fee quota? It is starting by deleting Apple CarPlay/Android Auto from future cars, so drivers must pay for GM’s proprietary software.
Cadillac, Buick, and GMC
If you drive a premium brand, GM expects you to pay even more in monthly fees. Buying OnStar and Connected Services Premium is now mandatory when ordering a new car. And you’ll pay $1,5000 for a three-year plan. That’s not a typo, you’d better budget almost $10/week minimum to drive a Cadillac, Buick, or GMC. Want to add the Super Cruise hands-free driver-aid software? That’ll be another $25 per month (USA Today).
This German automaker recently made headlines when it admitted that next year it will be adding more paywalled features to cars currently on the road. Oliver Hoffman, Audi’s board rep for technical development, said, “I think there is a demand from the customer to bring new functions in the car, and this is a profit pool for us.” (The Drive) Though Hoffman’s job is keeping the shareholders happy, he was still hesitant to name the features you’ll soon have to pay for through the myAudi app. But here’s a clue: In some markets, Audi charges extra for certain HVAC features. We know that the automaker will pioneer this transition on its E-Tron EVs.
BMW, finally backed down and ceased charging $18/month for heated seats and $80/year for Apple CarPlay (which Apple gives to automakers for free). Why? Customer outrage. Even though BMW is paywalling fewer features than Audi, you still must pay $19/month to use your BMW’s existing camera as a dashcam.
When it comes to Japanese automakers, Toyota is one of the worst subscription-fee-offenders. How do we figure? If you already drive a 2018-present Toyota, you’re about to get hit with fees for functions that were previously free. The automaker is bundling a bunch of app-based functions into its “Toyota Remote Connect” app and charging $8/month or $80/year for it all. These functions include remote start, vehicle status alerts, valet mode, last parked location reminders, and unlocking/locking with your phone.
A monthly fee for an app that turns your phone into a keyfob or gives you OnStar roadside assistance isn’t unexplored territory. But Mercedes is going one step further and pioneering subscription fees for extra performances. It is testing this on its EVs first: For $1,200/year, you get a 0-60 time one second faster, and for $576/year, rear-wheel steering cuts down your turning radius while parking or driving at low speeds.
Porsche has relatively standard subscription features available in its “Porsche Connect” phone app. But unlike Toyota, you’ll have to pay an extra fee for each one. For example, enabling your car’s Wi-Fi hotspot is $20/month, infotainment and navigation are $205/year, and theft detection is $280/year.
Learn more about automakers charging subscription fees for basic features in the video below: