For a few years now Several car companies have experimented with an idea taken directly from a video game. Someone, somewhere imagines that hey, if everyone’s willing to pay for a game, then spend more money on the game they bought, they can do the same with cars—a much more lucrative and expensive business—.
BMW for example provide a subscription service where for 18 dollars a month you can get heated seats, or pay to unlock adaptive cruise control. Tesla has expensive ($99-$199 a month!) subscription service for self-driving software in some cars, and Volkswagen, Toyota, and GM have all tested similar subscription-based unlocking or features.
Still, making headlines this week is the most infuriating example since Tesla once locked the battery range behind a charge wall. Mercedes has announced a digital purchase for its all-electric vehicles called “Acceleration”, which costs $1200 a year and, when purchased “may improve acceleration”. vehicle EQ from 0.8 to 1.0 seconds.”
While cars have always had expensive add-ons—that are the backbone of the entire business model—these add-ons were previously just physical purchases. If you pay for bigger wheels, you get bigger wheels. Spend a few thousand more to cover the leather seats and you have a luxurious leather chair set.
However, what is happening with these car subscription services is far more ominous. You don’t really get anything. Instead, thanks to the advancements in operating systems and communications found in modern cars, what you’re buying is a vehicle with limited or locked down certain features. that could be then enable remote.
It’s the same reasoning video game over a decade ago — and together we shrug and move. ever since people found out the DLC they bought was on the disc they bought. It’s the same story here; the engines in these Mercedes cars have always been able to run this fast, and locking certain elements of their performance behind a digital charge wall is causing absolute annoyance.
A common factor among all of the worst examples is that they are limited to expensive, luxury vehicles, targeted at the wealthy who are probably not interested in spending ( for them) add a few dollars a month when they’ve dropped more than $100,000 on a car. The danger, of course, is that if those rich people start buying these things and it turns out to be a successful business model, it won’t. long before we start seeing it in a Toyota Corolla and… oh. Great.