In a sales tactic that was originally widely decried when first introduced, automobile manufacturers have been increasingly embracing subscription fees and microtransactions for customers to be able to access even the most basic of features in their new vehicles, and reports indicate that some are now mulling over the possibility of introducing this controversial practice in used vehicles as well.
Owners of vehicles built by manufacturers such as BMW, GMC, Toyota, and others are finding themselves more and more often being asked to pay additional fees or subscribe to specific services for features that have previously been offered for free in the past, such as heated seats, remote starting, and even safety systems that automatically dims high beam headlights when it senses cars coming from the opposite direction.
This practice has led to debate over whether or not the paying customers of these companies truly “own” the vehicles they purchased.
Despite the public backlash, many automakers are anticipating generating significant revenue streams from vehicle subscription services – General Motors alone has stated that they expect to take in $25 billion annually via subscriptions by 2030 – and are now looking for ways to incorporate this practice into their used vehicles as well.
A 2021 survey estimates that about 83 percent of owners of used cars with built-in connectivity – through which auto manufacturers could introduce new microtransactional services – currently “remain untapped.”
The average lifespan of passenger vehicles has increased recently to approximately 12 years in the United States, with vehicles often passing along more than one owner during that time span. And while it would be difficult to employ the necessary software updates for microtransactions in privately sold pre-owned vehicles, automakers are looking to incorporate them into used cars they sell at their own certified dealerships, where they have a much greater degree of control.
In addition, automakers are also reaching out to consumers who have purchased used vehicles to see if they would be interested in purchasing subscription services.
“Connected cars have completely changed the landscape of customer interaction,” said Michael Bensel, of Cariad, the Volkswagen Group’s automotive software subsidiary. “Our company’s relationship with car buyers is shifting from occasional contact at dealerships at times of purchase, maintenance, or repairs, to continuous direct customer contact during the entire ownership period.”
Christopher Boyle is an investigative journalist, videographer, reporter and writer for SEARCHEN NETWORKS® and The Published Reporter® as well as other independent news and media organizations in the United States. Christopher works on a wide variety of topics and fields, has been featured in print and online in a variety of publications, from local to national, and helps keep a keen-eye on what’s happening in the automotive world for Auto Buyers Market.