Perhaps one of the most controversial trends in automotive is the advancement of subscription services.
As carmakers jump on the bandwagon in search of recurring revenue, we’ve seen several dip a toe in by offering accessories and features for a monthly price.
BMW has let users “unlock” heated seats – for a price. Likewise, Volkswagen began floating its idea of a “software dream car” in 2021, where features like all-wheel-drive could be paid for on a per-use basis.
For many, the slippery slope appeared and generated concerns over what would be next. Well, here it is: Mercedes is now offering electric vehicle owners in North America the option of going just a touch faster, with the option to buy an extra 60 horsepower for $60 a month or 80 horsepower for $90 per month.
According to CNN, the upgrade will “provide a nearly one second decrease in zero-to-60 acceleration” and is available through an over-the-air software patch. And if you don’t like being nickel and dimed, you can play a flat fee – just under $2,000 – to get the increased horsepower permanently.
Mercedes pegs the availability of downloadable upgrades and features as a way for customers to continuously customize their vehicles to fit changing needs and preferences but, of course, there’s money in it too. Automakers like GM and Stellantis have both said they plan to earn billions in the coming years by focusing on subscription services, plans which could include everything from heated seats and steering wheels, remote start, navigation and theft notifications.
But, of course, the subscription service model is not without its detractors. Earlier this year, VW was criticized when one of its vehicles was stolen with a child inside. Law enforcement called the company requesting that vehicle tracking – and on-demand service – be enabled and were told they’d have to pay up first.
And while this scenario is certainly unique, the more standard day-to-day for car owners is still generating some distaste. In the words of Jalopnik’s Adam Ismail, “There are practical reasons why this could work, but ultimately spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new car just to be nickel-and-dimed for literally everything and pestered with offers can’t help but seem like a miserable ownership experience.” He adds that it will be “on us consumers to draw the line.”