Monthly and annual subscription services aren’t brand new to the auto world (e.g., SiriusXM radio), but automakers have gradually been expanding vehicle-specific subscriptions for safety, performance, and comfort features. A recent survey by Cox Automotive showed that a fraction of car buyers are willing to pay subscription fees for a select few services. Still, most are unhappy with automakers not building the costs upfront in the price of their vehicles.
Cox Auto’s report included 217 people surveyed in January 2022, all of whom planned to buy a new vehicle within the next two years.
What consumers will and won’t pay for
A staggering 75% of survey respondents indicated they would not be willing to pay extra subscription fees for add-ons and additional features. The majority of respondents said they expect these fees to be included in the vehicle’s overall price and not charged separately on a monthly or yearly basis. Specific services respondents believe should be included in the total cost of the car are heating and cooling seats (92%), remote start functionality (89%), lane-keeping assistance technology (89%), and automatic emergency braking (87%).
On the other hand, 25% of respondents reported that they would either pay or consider paying for some subscription services. Over 80% of this segment said they would pay between $30 and $35 each month for extra safety features like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance technology. This group also reported they would pay between $20 and $25 each month for additional vehicle performance upgrades, including over-the-air updates and vehicle tracking in case of auto thefts, and they would also be willing to pay between $15 and $31 each month for upgraded comfort features such as remote start capabilities and heated seats.
Notably, under 40% of respondents said they would pay more money for additional range in an electric vehicle. Many were also hesitant to shell out subscription fees for in-vehicle Wi-Fi.
What this means for automakers and dealers
While Cox Auto’s survey gives excellent insight into what services consumers may pay subscription fees for, it also showed that automakers and dealers might need to do more on the sales front to try to convince buyers to subscribe. Only around 50% of respondents knew that monthly or annual subscriptions exist. Just 20% reported that they had tried these services, whether paid or through free trials offered.
Ultimately, automakers should consider what services to put in their subscription packages. The offerings could make or break consumers’ willingness to spend the money on them.
Of course, automakers will have to ask themselves if or when subscribers will get tired of paying the extra fees or decide they are not worth it. Technology firms might also create competing technologies that are less expensive or more attractive than what automakers offer. This is similar to Netflix’s loss of 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of this year due to rising costs, better-competing streaming services, and a lack of valuable content.
Even if automakers and dealers can convince consumers to subscribe to add-on services, they will also need to find ways of retaining them and staying aware of what they want.
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