Automakers Take Note: Most People Don’t Want Subscriptions

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Image: David Zalubowski (AP)

After car subscriptions fell flat and all but disappeared, the last few years have shown that automakers are exploring ways to continuously make money off consumers long after their initial purchase. Slowly but surely, automakers have started to turn down the road of trying to charge people for things their cars already came with. Volkswagen is considering charging for autonomous driving, Toyota is planning a subscription for remote start, Stellantis is expecting to make $23 billion a year from subscriptions, and even Rivian is looking to make money off of subscriptions. But a new study from Cox Automotive shows that customers aren’t here for it.

Image for article titled Automakers Take Note: Most People Don't Want Subscriptions

Screenshot: Cox Automotive

The numbers are telling. Of the 217 consumers surveyed earlier this year, just 25 percent said they’d be willing to pay subscription fees for vehicle features. The other 75 percent said hell no.

Three-quarters of consumers surveyed by Cox Automotive said they were not willing to pay an annual or monthly subscription fee for most items on their next vehicle. Rather, they expect most features and services to be included in the upfront sales price.

The last part is extremely telling. With vehicle prices constantly increasing, it’s galling to ask customers to pay extra or monthly to activate this or use that. People expect that their vehicle will come with the features they paid for.

The things that people would be willing to pay for may surprise some, and make sense in a strange way. People seem to be willing to pay for things like safety features and convenience features. From Cox:

  • Safety features, like lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency breaking, topped the list by a wide margin of what consumers would be willing to pay extra for – more than 80%. And they said they would pay the most for those features – an extra $30 to $35 per month.
  • Vehicle performance features got the nod by some consumers for extra charges. They include upgraded horsepower and torque, over-the-air software updates, stolen vehicle tracking and features that keep track of the vehicle’s operational performance and service. They’d pay $20 to $25 a month extra. The survey respondents were iffier on paying more for range upgrades on electric vehicles, which many automakers are doing now. Only 39% said they definitely would pay extra for added range.
  • Creature comforts, like heated/cooling seats and remote start, gained some approval for extra pay, between $15 to $31 a month. But consumers were less enthusiastic about paying more for in-vehicle Wi-Fi. On personalization features, some said they would pay extra for an instrument cluster they could personalize but not for exterior lights that are reconfigurable.

Still, don’t get your hopes up automakers. In no way should anyone have to pay extra for things their vehicle came with. Unfortunately, that unwillingness may fall on deaf ears. As we head into an all-EV future and dealer and auto profits drop because vehicles don’t need engine service anymore, automakers are going to be looking for more ways to get money out of buyers. And subscriptions seem to be the only way forward for them.

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