Not to be outdone by the likes of BMW and Volkswagen Group, Tesla has decided to begin linking its connected services to a subscription-based payment plan. German automakers may be careening headlong into an era where you have to pay a monthly fee just to activate already installed hardware like heated seats. Though Tesla remains the master at conning customers into overpaying for nebulous features and we need only look at the Full-Self Driving suite, that has yet to manifest into genuine vehicular autonomy and just keeps getting more expensive, for an example.
While the standard connectivity package has always been free for the vehicle’s lifespan, Big T is now saying that’s only going to be true for the first eight years of ownership. The rationale here is that automotive companies have to continue supporting connectivity services and that there needs to be something to help offset that ongoing financial investment.
Considering just how many automakers now offer connectivity as standard equipment these days — often using it as a method for hoovering up customer driving data — seeing Tesla deciding to charge owners after just eight years is slightly disheartening. But the whole industry is pivoting to new payment schemes manufacturers think will yield better margins in the long run and it’ll be easier to leverage via all-electric vehicles using over-the-air (OTA) updates. Volkswagen and Mercedes are currently trying to suss out how to charge subscriptions for advanced driving features whereas BMW is already placing hardware-based features behind a digital paywall. However they’re just a handful of examples out of an entire industry comprised of manufacturers thinking similarly. In fact, the only large companies I can think of that have indicated some amount of hesitancy toward the notion of having to perpetually support connectivity features on older cars were Toyota and Dodge. But the former seemed mainly concerned about how this would impact long-term reliability, whereas the former just didn’t seem to care — something that may change now that it’s owned by Stellantis and not Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Tesla’s cutoff date for a lifetime of free connectivity was July 20th of this year. Customers will now have eight years to enjoy the service (which includes navigation) and then opt into a monthly or annual subscription fee. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet but it’s likely to be less than the fancier option that comes with things like video streaming, an internet browser, and upgraded traffic info. The premium service is $99 per year at present and appears fairly popular, so we’re doubting most die-hard Tesla shoppers will be all that outraged.
Though something about the brand’s history leaves one dubious on the prospect of the company adhering to the full eight years. More than likely, we’ll see that goalpost moved a little closer sooner than expected. It also needs to be said that Tesla vehicles don’t support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, making the enhanced connectivity a little more important for drivers who are accustomed to a feature-rich infotainment system. Though the group that’s going to be affected most are those shopping on the secondhand market, something Tesla has already been a little goofy about.
We’ve been worried about subscription services run amok for ages. Granted, manufacturers have said these items won’t manifest fully for years to come. But most are also saying that with dollar signs in their eyes. Unless the market shows its unwilling to play along, there may soon be a day where drivers have to shell out monthly payments on items that used to be standard equipment or live with the knowledge that it’s embedded within the vehicle and they’re simply too poor to afford it.