Home » Audi Wants European A3 Customers To Subscribe To Features That Come Standard On A Base Toyota Corolla

Audi Wants European A3 Customers To Subscribe To Features That Come Standard On A Base Toyota Corolla

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Around a decade ago, almost all major automakers decided to pivot to being mobility companies. This was generally regarded as a bad idea. Years later, we’re now seeing the big picture really getting in motion, and man, is it ugly. Subscriptions for in-car features are now everywhere, and in Europe, the new Audi A3 features some of the most egregious examples we’ve seen in a long time.

So, are these subscriptions for anything useful that strictly needs to be supported by Audi on the network side? Perhaps cloud-based integrated dashcam storage, or digital key sharing, or vehicle tracking? Nope. They’re all for stuff you get as standard for life on a Toyota Corolla, most of which even comes standard on the base model. In Audi’s words:

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Up to five individual infotainment and comfort functions can be added online via the myAudi app, even after the vehicle has been purchased. In addition to MMI navigation plus including Audi connect services, the A3 and A3 allstreet can be upgraded with the smartphone interface, which integrates iOS and Android smartphones into the MMI system via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Other functions include adaptive cruise assisthigh-beam assist, and the ability to expand the standard air conditioning system with two-zone comfort air conditioning. All functions can be booked for one month, six months, one year, three years, or permanently, depending on the customer’s individual needs

Translation: Audi wants customers to reach into their wallets for some incredibly common features, many of which come standard on a base Toyota Corolla. Yeah, because forcing a subscription to use Apple CarPlay worked so well for BMW. It’s worth noting that not all markets have fully fledged subscription greed — British cars will only offer adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beams on subscription — so it’s hard to say what this means for America, but it paints an overarching tale of, to borrow a term from Cory Doctorow, enshittification that we should all push back on.

If all it takes is a subscription to access features like adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams, that means all the hardware necessary to support these features is already installed on the car, which brings up concerns about repairs. In the event that something goes wrong, owners may be stuck paying for physical repairs to systems they don’t want or use.

Audi A3 Sedan

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Oh, and it’s not like owning a PC without an operating system. With any decent assemblage of desktop hardware, you could easily and legally eschew Windows for Linux Mint or FreeBSD if you’re that sort of person, but cars come with embedded systems, and modifying those on today’s connected vehicles is prohibited by end user license agreement chicanery. Add in real-time monitoring and over-the-air updates, and getting around factory-installed digital gates won’t be as simple as say, jailbreaking an iPod Touch with redsn0w.

Then there’s the issue of end-of-life support. Sure, it may be possible to subscribe for now, but what happens when 5G eventually becomes an obsolete standard? For instance, 3G is largely being sunsetted in the UK this year after about 20 years of widespread coverage and has already been phased out by major American carriers. However, technological overlap means that cars depending on 5G might not be truly knackered by the time mobile network coverage gets switched off. It’s worth noting that 5G launched in Britain in 2019, and if 3G’s sunset cycle is anything to go by, it could be on its way out come 2039. With the new A3 launching this year and the post-facelift previous generation car having a four-model-year run, there’s a chance the newest facelifted fourth-generation A3s could be just 11 years old by the time network connectivity shuts down.

Audi A3 Sedan

Once that happens, will an upgrade path still exist, or will the door be shut on adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams forever? In the reasonably probable event that the latter scenario happens, all purported advantages are lost, and all disadvantages of toting around unnecessary hardware are cemented in concrete.

Every time a manufacturer floats the concept of microtransactions for access to physical or embedded functions, the air reeks of MBAs losing sight of what luxury really means. Luxury is supposed to be a state of great comfort, and by making fairly common hardware-dependent features available on subscription, Audi is making the new A3 slightly less luxurious than the obvious alternative of having those systems come standard since all of the hardware’s installed anyway. Make no mistake, this is a future worth pushing back against because not actually owning every piece of hardware on the second-most expensive purchase you’ll probably ever make is a disgusting thought.

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Audi A3 Sedan

So in the meantime, if you want a small car with luxurious convenience, why not take a good look at a Toyota Corolla? Sure, it might not have Audi-tier interior materials, but it does come with automatic high-beams, adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto at no extra cost. Who makes real luxury cars now, huh?

(Photo credits: Audi)

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Madewithgenuineparts
Madewithgenuineparts
1 month ago

Why would you ever get one of these when you can get a prettier, more reliable, more thoughtfully-assembled car for $15k less with the same feature set?

The Mazda3 turbo beckons.

DRFS Rich
DRFS Rich
1 month ago

These automakers need to tread very carefully in this modern world. Household budgets are much tighter and competitor cars (let’s face it, mostly Asian), are cheaper and getting closer and closer in terms of functionality and luxury. Shit like this is just going to push people to a competitor that will probably do the job just fine.

Dingus
Dingus
1 month ago

Nonsense like this will just result in an ongoing cat-and-mouse game of escalation between those who like to tinker with software and the manufacturer (or whatever 3rd party they’ve outsourced the development and management to).

There are already plenty of people who have fun with CANBUS exploration and message injection today. This will only become more the case when people get pissed about stupid stuff like this.

You’ll then see a lot of folks selling “patches” that unlock whatever features exist on these cars. Manufacturers will respond by doing OTA “updates” that either revert the changes or throw error messages with threatening language if unapproved changes are found. People will disable OTA updates to prevent. Your car will show as “unmanaged” by the manufacturer and they’ll tell your insurance that you’re naughty. People will install software that permits them to enable/disable specific changes at their liking. Manufacturer will enact security/encryption and/or file fingerprinting via hashing to see if you’re modified or not, etc.

So the end result will be largely the same thing as we have with traditional computers and will very closely mirror what we have with current mobile phones. There will exist a subculture of those who do not like being locked out of the hardware they purchased fully and will find ways to modify it to their liking. See Android rooting/Apple jailbreaking. Expect to see KingoRoot for your Audi in a few years…

Last edited 1 month ago by Dingus
Clueless_jalop
Clueless_jalop
1 month ago

They sort of alluded to it in the article, but I wonder how long it will be before people start hacking/jail-breaking their cars. It’s sort of a thing already, with some cars allowing you to make changes through the OBD system (VCDS for Volkswagen group cars, for example), but that’s working with the car’s software, not against it.

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