Subscription-based features are coming sooner rather than later
Volkswagen looks to be joining the subscription service train, following BMW, Tesla and others. VW head honcho Klaus Zellmer talked to Top Gear and explained how the service would work both logistically and financially. The first thing you need to know is that any car connected to the internet can get features added or removed, as long as the hardware is there.
Zellmer says this will change how people spec cars like the ID.4 in the future. The automakers can load them up with everything, simplifying the production process, and then people can pick their features at a later time. Or any time, for that matter. We hate to say it, but it almost makes sense.
"If you happen to buy a car and weren't convinced you needed an autonomous drive mode at the time, but then you decide you'd love to have it, we can switch it on, but we can then switch it off if the next owner of the car decides they don't need it," Zellmer told TG. "Going forward, we see the future as accessing mobility when you need it, not committing to owning one car for several years."
Zellmer says that the company is doing the math on what it would take to make it work, and he used Level 4 autonomous driving as an example. He says that the installation of such a system is in the five-figure range, but if every car gets the system right from the factory, things change.
"Who's going to pay that? It's not for the mass market. Now take the case that we install that and switch it on and off remotely," said Zellmer. "Our cost modelling says if we charge €7 an hour for Level 4 autonomous drive mode, this is a profitable business case." He goes on to note that the price would be cheaper than a train ticket going the same distance.
Again, the used market makes an interesting case here. Instead of buying a topped-out trim you just by the "Volkwagen Jetta" and then add the features (navigation, autonomous driving, heated seats) that you need in your daily life.
At face value, and as people who already have way too many subscriptions, most of them TV related, this seems like a bad deal. But the more you start thinking about it (do I really need navigation all the time when I own a cell phone?), it starts to make a little more sense. And it looks like this is our future, so we may as well get ready now.