Tesla to Begin Charging Subsription for Connectivity Services

tesla to begin charging subsription for connectivity services

Not to be outdone by the likes of BMW and Volkswagen Group, Tesla has decided to begin linking its connected services to a subscription-based payment plan. German automakers may be careening headlong into an era where you have to pay a monthly fee just to activate already installed hardware like heated seats. Though Tesla remains the master at conning customers into overpaying for nebulous features and we need only look at the Full-Self Driving suite, that has yet to manifest into genuine vehicular autonomy and just keeps getting more expensive, for an example.

While the standard connectivity package has always been free for the vehicle's lifespan, Big T is now saying that's only going to be true for the first eight years of ownership. The rationale here is that automotive companies have to continue supporting connectivity services and that there needs to be something to help offset that ongoing financial investment.

Considering just how many automakers now offer connectivity as standard equipment these days — often using it as a method for hoovering up customer driving data — seeing Tesla deciding to charge owners after just eight years is slightly disheartening. But the whole industry is pivoting to new payment schemes manufacturers think will yield better margins in the long run and it'll be easier to leverage via all-electric vehicles using over-the-air (OTA) updates. Volkswagen and Mercedes are currently trying to suss out how to charge subscriptions for advanced driving features whereas BMW is already placing hardware-based features behind a digital paywall. However they're just a handful of examples out of an entire industry comprised of manufacturers thinking similarly. In fact, the only large companies I can think of that have indicated some amount of hesitancy toward the notion of having to perpetually support connectivity features on older cars were Toyota and Dodge. But the former seemed mainly concerned about how this would impact long-term reliability, whereas the former just didn't seem to care — something that may change now that it's owned by Stellantis and not Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Tesla's cutoff date for a lifetime of free connectivity was July 20th of this year. Customers will now have eight years to enjoy the service (which includes navigation) and then opt into a monthly or annual subscription fee. Pricing hasn't been announced yet but it's likely to be less than the fancier option that comes with things like video streaming, an internet browser, and upgraded traffic info. The premium service is $99 per year at present and appears fairly popular, so we're doubting most die-hard Tesla shoppers will be all that outraged.

Though something about the brand's history leaves one dubious on the prospect of the company adhering to the full eight years. More than likely, we'll see that goalpost moved a little closer sooner than expected. It also needs to be said that Tesla vehicles don't support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, making the enhanced connectivity a little more important for drivers who are accustomed to a feature-rich infotainment system. Though the group that's going to be affected most are those shopping on the secondhand market, something Tesla has already been a little goofy about.

We've been worried about subscription services run amok for ages. Granted, manufacturers have said these items won't manifest fully for years to come. But most are also saying that with dollar signs in their eyes. Unless the market shows its unwilling to play along, there may soon be a day where drivers have to shell out monthly payments on items that used to be standard equipment or live with the knowledge that it's embedded within the vehicle and they're simply too poor to afford it.

[Image: BoJack/Shutterstock]

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  • DenverMike DenverMike on Jul 26, 2022

    Just on principle, not happening. Not just that the aftermarket can it do better, if I can't live without, but not before simply trying a hot-wire. Every gadget is 12volts at its core, like heated seats for example.

    Except I'd rather opt out in the showroom to begin with. I'm all about the "base model" or one notch or package up, depending features. Some are clearly at the automaker's loss, if you can handle it, staring at blockoff plates and whatnot.

  • Kendahl Kendahl 7 days ago

    A Tesla feature has been free, periodic, over-the-air, software updates that add new features or improve existing ones. Owners brag that their x-year-old car is better today, because of the updates, than it was brand new. Will Tesla start charging for these updates after a few years? Teslas hold their value very well. I suspect losing free updates will do serious damage to that.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
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  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.