Car buyers may want to warm up their wallets if they want to warm up their backsides. That’s because automakers and subscription fees are likely here to stay whether we want them or not. According to a recent study by Cox Automotive, that answer for many shoppers is “or not,” and guess what: that’s probably not going to change anything. This week, Cox said that it surveyed more than 2,000 shoppers and found only roughly one in five was familiar with the concept of subscription items offered by automakers, and more than two out of three said if certain features were only available via subscription, they’d take their money elsewhere.
“As consumer familiarity is low, automakers will have to be careful in how they present (a features on demand) strategy and make sure not to turn off shoppers from the start,” Vanessa Ton, senior manager of market and customer research at Cox Automotive, said in a statement. “Our research suggests that free trial periods might be one way to approach the issue.”
Automakers from BMW to Mercedes and others have dabbled in the concept so far, although that’s likely to ramp up in the next few years as EVs become more prevalent. As aftersales and service revenue dwindles, it’s likely that subscription fees will take over as a means for car companies to recoup money lost on the production of EVs or maintain revenue from cars already sold. The bad news? Shoppers are hip to that. According to Cox, 3 out of 4 shoppers agreed with the statement, “Features on Demand will allow automakers to make more money,” which isn’t a stretch because it’s mostly true.
That apparently won’t dissuade General Motors and others from jumping into the fray and offering subscriptions in cars. The good news for them? Most shoppers said they would consider a brand’s add-on if a free trial was offered, and nearly half said they’d keep a car longer if it could be upgraded during its lifecycle. People said features such as phone-as-a-key, antitheft devices, in-car Wi-Fi, and parking assistance would be worth paying for. Heated seats and steering wheels? Ehhhh.
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