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Where next for the subscription service evolution?

While driver-centric subscription features mark a step forward for the industry, they will remain elusive for most drivers until OEMs make them more accessible. By Jillian Goldberg

From Netflix to Hello Fresh to the Dollar Shave Club, consumers have embraced subscription services for nearly every facet of their lives. Thanks to recent innovations, the automotive industry has started using subscription services to offer drivers an increasing range of features.

Today, premium offerings include features like immersive entertainment capabilities and next-gen secure driving. Drivers can even enjoy in-car gaming with apps from Google Play, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and enhanced electric vehicle (EV) performance. And with over-the-air software updates, drivers can install new services long after a car leaves the factory. These subscriptions provide a flexible and customisable approach that creates lasting relationships with drivers.

But for more adoption on the road, drivers will need to see the value-add of an automotive subscription and know that they aren’t being overcharged for what they consider “standard” features they’ve enjoyed in the past for ‘free’. So, how can automakers make these features more accessible?

Volvo’s Digital Services package includes access to Google apps and services, the Volvo On Call app and the wireless phone charger, as well as all data required to run the services

Feature-based in-vehicle subscriptions enhance the driving experience by providing customisable services that give drivers greater control of their own vehicles. Take the Ford BlueCruise package which, at a cost of up to US$2,100 for three years, enables advanced hands-free highway driving, lane change assistance, and in-lane repositioning. Or look at Tesla’s premium package, where drivers receive live traffic visualisation, video streaming services, internet browsing, and even karaoke.

Such services provide consumers with a personalised driver profile based on exactly what makes them feel most comfortable behind the wheel. Additionally, as opposed to traditional vehicle ownership where customers bear the full cost of purchasing a vehicle, subscriptions for add-on services allow for a more affordable alternative. Customers can access specific features for a lower cost and cancel services when they choose.

For automotive subscription services to successfully take hold, drivers want to feel like they are part of the process. Drivers are often concerned about additional costs, so automakers should be transparent about pricing. Drivers must be empowered to select the features they desire and avoid paying for those they don’t. Automakers should provide modular options that allow drivers to customise packages. To establish maximum trust, these services must be offered from the initial point of purchase—not just as an aftermarket add on.

Ford is offering its new BlueCruise hands-free highway driving system as a subscription extra

Furthermore, a surefire way to alienate potential drivers would be to lock safety features or limit functionality behind a paywall. Features like automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, and lane-keeping assistance, which can be reserved for higher-end or upgraded models, should be universally adopted.

Vehicles are becoming smarter and more connected every day, giving automakers fertile ground to provide drivers with an array of subscription-based features that transcend traditional vehicle ownership. To stay competitive and maintain subscription engagement, automakers must give equal attention to creating genuinely innovative features and ensuring that drivers understand exactly what they are paying for. With the right approach, automakers can improve their bottom lines, while fuelling a more inclusive and enhanced driving experience for all.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Jillian Goldberg is Chief Revenue and Investment Officer of GuardKnox

The Automotive World Comment column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute a Comment article, please contact

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