Subscription-Based Automotive Features – Boom Or Bust?


Subscription-based services in personal automobiles is a subject that has generated lots of discussion lately, with consumers being strongly against any such thing. Take BMW’s claims that you’ll get used to them on cars — if the comments on our article are anything to go by, the vast majority of you guys are deadset against it.

Automotive connectivity services provider VNC Automotive, however, feels that subscription services are here to stay and expects them to grow in popularity over time. In a press release issued this week, VNC claims that consumers are now used to the subscription model in their daily lives thanks to services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify and that this familiarity will smooth the transition for automotive subscription services as well.

Citing the ability for consumers to pay for features only when they use them – for example, heated seats which only get used in the winter – VNC believes that consumers may prefer to activate and deactivate features according to their needs and budget rather than “paying upfront for expensive options.”

Related: Audi Owner Gets Popup Message Reminding Them Climate Functionality Costs Extra

This potential for ad-hoc customization is presented as a benefit for even subsequent owners of a vehicle, allowing them to activate features that they would want even on a used vehicle purchase. Another purported benefit is the ability for consumers to “switch between vehicles and have their subscribed features move with them, with options activated according to each driver’s subscription package.” Of course, this method is desirable from an OEM point of view as it allows them to lock customers into a subscription ecosystem and thereby increase brand loyalty, at least in theory.

The basis for all this appears to be recent YouGov survey data indicating that 30 percent of British and American automotive consumers would agree with the statement: “I don’t want to be locked into owning a car because my needs may change.” The same survey apparently indicates that consumers are more open to a car subscription model instead of ownership, and that young drivers may opt out of ownership altogether, seeing vehicles as a “transient commodity.”

It is, however, worth noting that a much larger majority of survey respondents still preferred owning their vehicles and presumably would rather have control over the features in their vehicles all of the time as well. The question of whether this opinion will swing significantly in the opposite direction in the near future remains an open one.


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