Sounds like Mercedes has been taking lessons from the video game developers charging for downloadable content.
Subscription-based services like Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu are seemingly influencing the auto industry right now as car companies try to find new ways to generate more revenue. Volvo, for example, offers a subscription service that allows you to pay a monthly fee that covers the cost of owning the car, insurance, service, and maintenance.
According to a report by Australia's Drive, Mercedes could soon offer a monthly subscription service via a Mercedes Me app store that adds extra in-car features. Mercedes software developer Markus Ehmann told the publication that the automaker is "working on a robust platform that allows the user, the drivers, to turn features on and off in their car - possibly an extra feature that costs money or something they know they don't want." This practice isn't unheard of, as BMW is planning to charge a yearly fee to access Apple CarPlay.
However, when asked whether pay-as-you-go subscriptions would be restricted to software services like Spotify, Ehmann said it could also apply to physical elements of the car like heated seats. "I would say that it could be both," he said. "We're building a general solution and what the business decides to do with it is up to them. It could be outside products that they subscribe to or Mercedes-Benz specific products. I would say it's currently just in digital. We can definitely expand in the future to be in hardware."
This could set a dangerous precedent for automakers to milk more money out of consumers by charging extra for features that should be free or paid for up-front as an optional extra. That said, while some people might bemoan the idea of paying a monthly fee to access heated seats, others may prefer paying for convenience features when they are required – you're unlikely to use heated seats in the summer, for example. It sounds similar to downloadable content in video games, where developers charge extra to access content such as new cars in racing games.