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New Cars and Software Updates

How would you react if you had to pay for the apps that appear on the touchscreen of your new car?  Various auto manufacturers are looking at new ways to charge owners money for features that were previously sold as an option for the car when you bought it new.  One idea that has shown up in their brainstorming sessions was to charge car owners subscription fees for features like Apple CarPlay and its phone-pairing connectivity – as BMW is already doing.  Of course, this has been a feature that has been included for free on many mainstream cars.

Perhaps not so surprising to many would be the results that Cox Automotive collected, which were collected from a survey that asked a relatively small group of a little over 200 people about their thoughts and attitudes towards having to pay over and over again for features that used to be included at the point of sale.  Around 75% of the survey respondents would refuse to pay for features on an ongoing basis.

When asked about having to pay for any safety features on an ongoing basis, the survey showed that around 80% would not want to pay for these safety items again and again.  However, if forced to, these same respondents would be prepared to pay up to $35 per month.  I’m not sure whether the people surveyed were by enlarge high-flyers or a decent cross-section of society that included your average wage earner.  This cost per month was the highest level that these respondents would be prepared to pay for them if they were forced to.

A full 92% of respondents said that the physical items like heated and cooled seats, massage functions, or a refrigerated drinks box should be purchased as a one-off-at-the-point-of-sale option, just like anyone does now when they buy a new car with extra options.

A new car these days is full of computerised technology, so any software updates or subscription fees for software enhancements, EV power upgrades, satellite or vehicle locator enhancements need to be paid for somewhere along the line.  The funny thing is that, even as with a standard Office update on a desktop, the real-life software updates rarely have any significant practical benefits in real-life usage for the user.  Sometimes a new desktop Office update can even complicate things with the user having to relearn the fifth new visual format and appearance update in two years – I know, I was probably exaggerating.

I guess I would be prepared to pay for a driving range enhancement or a better battery capacity after purchasing a new EV, though I guess this could be a bargaining carrot for keeping a customer longer and loyal to a brand, or even enticing them to buy a certain car in the first place.

Interestingly, around 50% of the survey respondents weren’t even aware that subscription fees for car features were a prerequisite.  Rising costs that grow quicker than someone’s usable income is never a welcome scenario, so these sorts of surveys and results will hopefully provide auto manufacturers with the necessary feedback from their customers, and on the customers’ tolerance for any new additional fees in general.

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