Consumers Unwittingly Embrace In-Car Subscriptions, But Have OEMs Already Lost Their Golden Goose?

Beneath the surface of overt resistance to in-car subscriptions lies a paradoxical acceptance of similar models.

Michael Higgins

Co-Founder, Managing Director

Published on 

November 15, 2023


Last updated on 

November 24, 2023

Key Takeaways

The automotive industry is facing a major change with the rise of subscription-based models, marking a significant shift in the battle for control between car manufacturers and technology companies. This change is reshaping how we think about owning and using cars, turning it into a competitive arena where traditional automakers and tech giants are racing to dominate the lucrative in-car subscription market. This evolving landscape is not just about business tactics; it's about fundamentally rethinking the relationship between cars, their drivers, and digital technology.

OEMs and the Shift to Subscription Services

Automakers are now focusing on subscription services as a new source of revenue. This trend is driven by the understanding that the value of cars now extends beyond their physical features to include the digital experiences they provide. A notable example is the controversy surrounding BMW's decision to charge for heated seats, which were previously included in the car's purchase price. This incident highlights the consumers' reluctance to pay extra for features they consider standard, but it also indicates a deeper shift in consumer behavior.

Despite some resistance to subscriptions for in-car features, consumers have shown a willingness to embrace digital services in vehicles, like the integration of apps such as Spotify with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This suggests that people are open to digital enhancements in their cars, as long as these services offer clear value.

The Evolving Role of In-Car Infotainment Systems

The in-car infotainment system is at the center of this change. Companies like General Motors are making bold moves, such as planning to replace Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with their own technology in future electric vehicles. GM's strategy highlights a critical point: relying on third-party platforms might lead to a loss of control over important aspects of the in-car experience. By developing their own systems, GM aims to offer new subscription services and gain insights into consumer behavior, which are vital for future innovations.

On the other hand, Volvo, under CEO Jim Rowan, is taking a different approach. With Rowan's background in consumer electronics at BlackBerry and Dyson, Volvo is choosing to maintain its connection with platforms like Apple CarPlay. This strategy shows Volvo's belief in the importance of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, which they see as more valuable than the potential benefits of a proprietary system.

The Future of Automotive Digital Strategies

These contrasting approaches by GM and Volvo highlight a significant dilemma for the automotive industry: how to embrace digital technology and subscription models without losing consumer trust or the value provided by third-party integrations.

As automakers move from traditional sales to a subscription-based model, they face a critical decision in their digital strategy. Choosing between developing their own systems or partnering with established tech companies is not just about technology, but a strategic choice that will shape the future of automotive revenue and customer relationships. The success of these strategies will depend on finding the right balance between innovation, customer satisfaction, and the changing digital environment.

About the author
Michael is the co-founder and managing director at Loopit, a SaaS platform specialising in new mobility initiatives such as car subscription, rideshare and digital rental solutions. When he’s not launching new businesses, Michael enjoys motorsports, racing cars himself as well as boating.
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