Some car companies have been experimenting with an idea ripped straight from video games. Someone figured that if people are willing to pay for a game, then what’s to say they wouldn’t want the game to last longer? This is why these companies thought it might be a good idea to offer car players in-game and make them more expensive.
BMW, for example, offers an $18 monthly steering system that includes heated seats. Tesla has a $99-$199 monthly self-driving software subscription service in some cars as well. Volkswagen, Toyota, and GM have all experimented with similar subscription-based launches or features.
This week, headlines have been dominated by the most outrageous example of paywalling yet. Mercedes has introduced a digital purchase for its all-electric cars called an “Acceleration Increase,” which costs $1200 a year. When bought, it helps EQ vehicles accelerate by 0.8 to 1 second faster.
We are living in a new era of digital add-ons that aren’t just clipped onto your steering wheel like they used to be. If you’re parting with a few thousand dollars to pay for fancy leather seats, you’ll get what you paid for—a dashboard displaying how long until the car is totally charged and an updated version of Spotify.
These car subscription services seem like a great deal, but they come with some unpleasant side effects. You’re really not getting anything because all you’re really buying is a car with certain features limited or disabled that can be enabled remotely with the use of the operating system and communications so advanced in modern cars.
In the early 2000s, video game enthusiasts were appalled to find out that downloadable content they purchased was already on their game discs. This is the same case with these Mercedes cars, where people have found out that the motors can always go that fast – and locking certain things behind a digital paywall simply takes the proverbial piss.
The common factor among the worst examples of this is that they’re luxury vehicles and they target high-income individuals. These wealthy buyers may not care because their spending a few extra dollars a month won’t put much of a dent in their bank account. The problem is, if these cars become profitable, then we will see them in lower-income markets – such as Toyota Corollas and other popular car types.