Home » Hyundai Seems To Be Considering Those Subscription-Based Features Nobody Ever Said They Want

Hyundai Seems To Be Considering Those Subscription-Based Features Nobody Ever Said They Want

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There was an article a couple of days ago in the UK-based Autocar that spoke with several high-ranking executives at Hyundai and their Hyundai Collected Mobility division. What these executives said were the sorts of things that sent chills down my spine – chills of irritation and dismay, because they were saying things like “For years we worried about how we were going to sell more cars. Today we worry about ‘what if all we do is sell cars?'” and talking about heated seat subscriptions and that sort of thing, but calling it “personalization in the car” instead of what most consumers call it, which is “bullshit.” Does anyone like subscribing to car features?

Here’s what Autocar reported Marcus Welz, head of Hyundai Connected Mobility, said:

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“We are looking at feature-on-demand as an option, in order to add more personalization in the car.”

“Feature on demand” is how marketing people refer to features your car was built with, and has the hardware already installed, hardware that you pay in either fuel or electricity costs to haul around with you wherever you go, but the people who built your car decided that you can’t access unless you pay – features like heated seats or connected services of some kind.

Hyundai also stated that the subscription service could be used to “bring new features into older cars,” which is an interesting concept, though it also brings up some questions. I realize that there could be purely software-based upgrades that could improve things on older cars: user-interface updates to the infotainment systems, perhaps, or new applications for the car that used the existing hardware, but there are, of course, limits.

Sure, it’s theoretically possible that new battery management software could improve battery range or even motor power via the motor controller or something – I’m not ruling that out – but to get real, substantive gains for the future, a carmaker might choose to write software that deliberately doesn’t maximize the potential of their hardware, and then they can roll out “upgrades” that release potential that was previously trapped. I’m not saying this is necessarily Hyundai’s plan, but it has to be noted that this is a very real possibility for any company with similar ideas.

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I understand the motivation from carmakers to do this sort of thing: they want a means to keep generating revenue from their customers after they already bought the car. The quote from Welz,

“For years we worried about how we were going to sell more cars. Today we worry about ‘what if all we do is sell cars?'”

… pretty much sums that up, but it also is a concept that I do not feel consumers want anything to do with. There’s rarely been concepts in the automotive world that seem to have engendered such universal disdain and disgust among car owners as having to subscribe to features already built into your car, at least in part because the flip side of that means there can be features in a car you own that the carmaker keeps you from using, and that is absolutely maddening.

Ponysubs

Nobody wants this. Carmakers want it because they want your money. But consumers want to keep their money, and it’s natural for them to feel resentment at carmakers for trying these sorts of persistent tactics to chisel more money from the customers who paid good money – and likely with a loan, are still paying good money – to drive the car. How much money do these car executives need, they may wonder? Would it kill them to enjoy a delicious can of dog food every now and then, like the fantastic Ol’ Roy Country Stew, complete with peas and carrots and mouth-watering cuts of what could possibly be beef? Heat it up, and who would even know you’re eating non-human-rated food? Are they really too good for that?

There’s also the issue of longevity; we’ve seen how cars with connectivity features that used older networks that have been “sunsetted” have fared, and it’s not great. Features that the car once had are now dead, and there’s nothing the average car owner can do about it. What’s the guarantee that this sort of thing won’t happen again to subscription-based features that require contacting a remote server to operate? There really is no guarantee.

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I reached out to Hyundai PR here in America to see if feature subscription plans were being considered here as well, but have yet to hear back so far. So, until I do, I’ll just speak from the heart and implore them to give this matter a lot of careful thought, and think about what their buyers actually want. If people are clamoring for features they have to pay for on demand, I’m sure as hell not hearing it, and based on how this concept has worked in the past, I don’t see this as being a hit.

If anything, I think Hyundai could do far better if they made a point of being a carmaker that refuses to have subscription services, and really pushes the idea that when you buy a Hyundai, you own that Hyundai, and that includes all the features your car is capable of, which you decided on when you bought the car. You’re not lugging around things you can’t use, you’re in no danger of losing functionality if your financial circumstances change, and, most importantly, your car is yours, not a loan from some faraway automaker that you have to deal with every time your ass is cold in the winter.

I don’t think anyone cares how this concept is spun or if it’s called on-demand-features or whatever. It feels wrong, and car buyers seem to hate it. So, Hyundai, please, think before you commit to this path. There’s still time.

 

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Evan M
Evan M
1 month ago

If anything, I think Hyundai could do far better if they made a point of being a carmaker that refuses to have subscription services, and really pushes the idea that when you buy a Hyundai, you own that Hyundai, and that includes all the features your car is capable of, which you decided on when you bought the car.

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Unfortunately, even though this gets shot down every time it comes up, it doesn’t seem to be dissuading auto makers from tweaking the formula and trying again. Eventually they’ll find a way to get in the door, and that will be that. Heated seats “on demand” and infotainment ads to put it in park. This isn’t the hell we created, it was the hell we didn’t have the time or energy to fight.

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
1 month ago

It is complicated. I do believe that automakers can have some savings in scale, but in the longer term, unless they have a clear plan, it will back fire on them.

I mean, as Torch said, there is the matter that networks eventually sunset and goes offline. It is not that hard to project a gateway as a replaceable module that in the future can keep the featrues alive, and that they will support that. Or otherwise, make very clear when it will stop working and what people can do.

The most decent things to do would be open the source of the system when it reaches end-of-life or adopt a open and standard framework from the beginning (note that this doesn’t exist today) or enable everything once it knows it will stop working (because they won’t be able to generate any revenue any way).

The last one would be an incentive to keep this cars on the road for more time instead of generating more junk, specially when we are talking about eletric cars and their batteries.

Also, if there is hardware already present in the car, what happens if after a long time someone decides to enable but it doesn’t work because such hardware just broke for some reason?

What if there is an accident that requires calibration of sensor that were not used before, and the repair was done at an independent shop that doesn’t have the ability to that properly?

Those things talk to each otherm and if you put something in a bus that breaks down the communication with something that is supposed to work?

I do understand that from an economic standpoint may be interesting to a carmaker to follow this business model, but if not done properly, it is a bad idea that can burn a company reputation. But people in the corporate world usually don’t think in longer term because they don’t plan to be there in the longer term. So they plan the best solution to their current problem instead of considering the entire product life cycle.

This sucks, but is not an auto industry privilege, it is a wide spread plague, unfortunatelly.

We should fight for the right to repair, and now for the right to own, instead of just subscribe.

Querty
Querty
1 month ago

Gotta get Marques Brownlee to talk trash on subscriptions to see those executives thinking twice

Rafael
Rafael
1 month ago

Adding the feature and holding it hostage with a subscription is a shakedown, pure and simple, and people see through it. In a sense, they’re asking money not break a part of our cars, and THIS is why we hate it so much.

If OEMs want to lean on this, it has to be a net positive, it has to offer something real, not just a bullshit authorization for us to use hardware we already paid for.

OSpazX
OSpazX
1 month ago

A few thoughts. Keep in mind, however, I have never worked for a car manufacture, dealer or other auto related areas.

It wasn’t that long ago, (well, for us older folks, it doesn’t’ seem like long ago), that you basically HAD to replace a new vehicle every 5-10 years. Engines would last (up to) 100,000 miles. Transmissions.. good luck… Metal + Water + Air = Rust.

These days.. it wouldn’t surprise me to see many, if not most, new vehicles, lasting 200k+ miles.

Engines/Transmissions are build so much better. As the years went on, better treatment was applied to the metal areas, to stop/delay/retard rust. Then consider all the “nannies” that have been added to cars over the years, to help them avoid accidents.

Brakes are pretty amazing these days, if you remember the years where a hard brake or two would result in Brake fade. Again, less accidents.

All companies need to MAKE money. Public and Private companies. In the past, the quality of vehicles was basically a built-in time limit. Now that cars last so much longer, are so much safer… that manufacturer is killing it’s own ability to sell new cars.

And since cars are so much better these days, the number of times you need to visit a dealership has fallen. Dramatically. Depending on the manufacturer, of course. Some are better than others.

The result… the manufacturer, the selling dealerships, the repairing dealerships… everyone has had their earning ability get smaller and smaller over the years.

So, how to keep making money? Or for a public company, how to keep increasing how much money you make? You need something else that the consumer is going to be paying for. Preferably a reoccurring expense. Result = subscription based services.

Another way manufacturers can save money, is by limiting the different build sheets. So, instead of building x number of cars with a (insert feature here), and then another bunch without the feature. Or perhaps there are different levels of a feature.

K.I.S.S… so manufacturing all vehicles to the same spec sheet will save time, will increase productivity, and will decrease the issues that inevitably result from different build outs.

So, make car have everything. But, you want to also be able to sell the car to different consumers, with different requirements, and different buying ability (how much they can afford).

So, make all the cars the same build, sell the cars, with some of them not using all the built in features, to make the car “cheaper”. I’m sure the manufacturers will still have a (potential) loss of earnings, if no one subscribes to those features. And I’m sure the manufacturers have good accountants and folks “predicting” the future. And they must be reporting back that yes, you lose money on selling a car with heated seats, that are not enabled. But they must have calculated to they will not only make up for that (potential) loss, with the customers who do enable the features with a subscription. Of course, part of those calculations will be how much can they save by having a single build sheet.

Caveat emptor

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 month ago

Not surprising. My 2019 Elantra has remote start… If I pay for it. the Remote package is $99 a year or $84.15 if I buy a 3 year plan. Oh but wait you can’t get the Remote package unless you have Connected Care which is the same price as the Remote package. So if I wanted to remote start my car for the next 3 years it would cost me $504.90. That’s stupid.

When I had 3 years of it for free I only used it in the winter and only really if it was below freezing or snowing. So lets say over the 3 years that I used it 300 times. Every time I remote started my car it cost me $1.68. Not a big expense in the grand scheme of things but that would mean that I would have already subscribed once and I would be close to reupping this year if I had chosen to use the service instead of just getting a remote start installed for under $200 like I did with my previous car. I could have had almost 5 remote starts installed in my old car for the “privilege” of using remote start in my Elantra.

I know there’s a module I can supposedly install myself in no time but I’m wary of things like that. It’s supposed to just be plug and play. I don’t really need remote start but it would be nice to have. I’d really love for companies to quit trying the subscription bullshit.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Outofstep

And what’s also funny about that is Hyundai made a whole point about remote start through an app years ago, advertising it in a Super Bowl ad that you could start your car through your smartwatch. But later/in recent years they started adding a physical remote start button to key fobs, the way it had been initially when factory remote starters started popping up. I always assumed that was from complaints about the app not working very well for the intended function. You could still use the app, but you didn’t need to. That’s the way most manufacturers seem to be doing it…for now.

I had an Optima with an OEM accessory remote start (think contracted from one of the aftermarket companies) that worked great, from just before the UVO connected services added remote start function. Had a separate fob, but also had a button sequence on the regular fob I could click to start.

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 month ago

Oh yea that was another thing. Half the time it didn’t work. I’d be in my house and hit start and then finish getting all my things together. I’d realize that I couldn’t hear my car running in the driveway so I’d grab my phone and see in the app that the attempt had failed. When I had my old car with remote start I tapped the button twice and it’d turn on every single time. And Hyundai’s response when I told them that was well yes but could you start your car from inside a mall? God I’d forgotten about that dumb ass response they gave me.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago
Reply to  Outofstep

lol! I’d have said back, if it won’t even start 20 feet away from me inside my house then why would I think it would work from inside a mall??

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 month ago

I don’t remember what the response was but it was close to what you said except probably slightly more colorful.

Data
Data
1 month ago

I’m not sure a GPS horse proximity warning is very useful, but for Jason, a GPS deer proximity warning might be worth whatever the cost is.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 month ago

I would be ecstatic if they would put subscriptions for everything in cars. But there is 1 caveat, drop the base price of all your cars by 30%. Then I can feel good about paying for a car I like without all the useless bullshit they try to add in all the trims above base ( hell, even some of the nonsense they add in base models is too much )

Pit-Smoked Clutch
Pit-Smoked Clutch
1 month ago

30% below the 2019 price.

Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
1 month ago

They’re not going to drop the base price. They can’t. They just built all the options into it and that still costs more. It’s more EFFICIENT to make one trim level with everything, but it may or may not be cheaper. But the whole point isn’t to pass the efficiency gain down to you, the point is the ability to have back end subscriptions prop up margins.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 month ago

Yes! Make auto start-stop, backup sensors and cameras, hill start assist, ignition-breathalyzer interlocks, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, telematics, on and on… make all of it subscription-only, knock the car’s purchase price down to what it would have been if they had added none of that capability, and let me opt out of all of it. I’ll just use my hands, feet, eyes, mirrors, and brain to drive the car like I was taught, and save a bunch of money doing it.

Musicman27
Musicman27
1 month ago

Its a company! As long as they get the MOST profit possible they are happy! Especially if it screws you over.

Last edited 1 month ago by Musicman27
GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 month ago

I imagine the ability to do this is already built in to some vehicles to an extent, given the Kia EV9 debuted talking about options to buy extra subscriptions and digital features like Boost mode and new exterior light patterns. It’ll start with gimmicky or gee-whiz things like that and then trickle down into actual features.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
1 month ago

We needed a motor oil subscription for our last Hyundai. We were very loyal customers for 20 years. No longer.

MDMK
MDMK
1 month ago

Automakers will keep trying to use the Power of Marketing to shove subscription based features down our throats. Eventually, they’ll find the secret formula to convince a large enough subset of the population that it’s an easy way to only pay for the features they want, much like how cord-cutters used to complain about paying for the dozens of cable channels they never watch. Then automakers can sell us vehicles with every last one is a stripper model with most the options packages locked behind paywalls.

Dangerous_Daveo
Dangerous_Daveo
1 month ago

For a company that basically has 3 trim levels, where the top dog has zero option boxes to tick, this seems pretty effing backwards.

We’ve got two top spec Hyundai’s, mostly because it was easy. Trying to decipher what option packs to get what we wanted in a BMW for example, turning an option on, turned something else off! It was infuriating.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 month ago

Just when I thought they were heading in a better direction they pull this stuff. I purchased a new Hyundai a couple of months ago. As long as I own it I have complimentary BlueLink for as long as I own the car and OTA map updates for three years. I’ve already had a map update. I was thinking, good for them.

First Last
First Last
1 month ago

I stopped reading at “Hyundai Connected Mobility Division.”

AlterId
AlterId
1 month ago

Heat it up, and who would even know you’re eating non-human-rated food? Are they really too good for that?

If they’re too good for that, then so am I, and I assure you that I am not.

Younork
Younork
1 month ago

What is the legality of jailbreaking a car, it’s your car so in theory you should have the right to make the heated seats turn on and off as you please, right? 

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Younork

My thought as well. I deal with electric heat while earning my daily bread: can’t think of an easy way they could prevent me from enabling warming seats if I really want to. What are they gonna do, send out a tow truck ? Send service personnel to remove the elements from my seats?

oh, it might not switch through the entertainment screen, but a warm butt is warm no matter how enabled. 🙂

Drew
Drew
1 month ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

oh, it might not switch through the entertainment screen

I’d want to crack the thing just to install a switch that wasn’t on the damned screen.

Johnpmac
Johnpmac
1 month ago

This would stop my from buying a car- and I love my Kona EV like that Tracy fella loves his i3.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
1 month ago
Reply to  Johnpmac

100% agree. I just worry that this is the way the whole industry is going and that you will be forced into this if you want a new car here in a few years. Luckily I have no desire for a new car, and quite like my cars from the 90s thanks!

Avalanche Tremor
Avalanche Tremor
1 month ago

Maybe all the folks getting their Hyundais/Kias stolen forgot to renew their engine immobilizer subscription.

Tagarito
Tagarito
1 month ago

I poked around the Walmart listing for that Ol Roy dog food. And there’s this neat chart there, a transition guide from whatever my dog’s eating today from 25% Ol Roy, then 50%, 75% over a few days, then a lifetime of Ol Roy afterwards. It’s like the dog gets suckered into a tiered subscription and the good boy doesn’t realize he’s on a 100% lifetime package.

With car feature subscriptions it can be exactly the same. Ol Roy got it right the first time

Matt Wishart
Matt Wishart
1 month ago

So, imagine for a moment that an unscrupulous vehicle manufacturer decided to activate an ‘over the air’ obsolescence code. As BagoBoiling mentioned previously, this could take the form of ‘sunsetted’ equipment that needs to be upgraded at extortionate rates in order to function, or nefariously, vital equipment that is pre-programmed or authorised to fail at the whim of the manufacturer. They could even randomise the nature of the failure so there’s no class action suit.
Of course I’m just being cynical, no massive corporation would ever conspire to implement such a thing. That would be like installing hardware in the vehicles you sell, just to cheat on emissions testing…

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Wishart

Or installing a chain tensioning guide in one piece which you either thoroughly disassemble the motor or cut off a boss to remove. —the replacement piece is in 2 parts, so installs easily. >later 4.0 Ford v6s. Absolutely cost-savings/planned obsolescence
-shit like that was why I kept driving 123 Mercedes for 20 years

Dan S
Dan S
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Wishart

I bet there are a bunch of automakers trying to figure out the risk/reward on deactivating Takata airbags OTA (or whatever the next recall is) if owners don’t bring their cars in for a recall.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dan S
Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago

I have pure disdain for the subscription feature practice. It sounds like most of you on this site do too. It would be simple enough to eradicate this by you, me and every other consumer refusing to purchase any of them. They would disappear quick enough.
The problem is there is enough impulsive, financially irresponsible people to make it worth to them. You know the guy who has to have a new Hummer so bad he will pay $200k for it? That guy. The only Hummer I need that bad usually doesnt cost more than dinner and a movie. I read a recent article about how much revenue this has generated for the automakers so I wouldn’t expect to see this go away anytime soon.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 month ago

This validates once again that I’ll never, ever buy a vehicle from Hyundai or any company that does this…out of principle. I’ve never liked Hyundai and especially Kia…I could care less about their new cars. There’s so many cars that need saving that are better looking than new cars that mostly look the same. I plan on keeping the good ones going for a long time that don’t have all this junk/nannies/screens/etc that I don’t need/want. Keep a bunch going since there’s so many hidden away…it doesn’t matter to me how much it costs either and will rely on synthetic fuel that is being worked on and when it comes out it will be expensive but again…it’s the principle of the matter

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago

They see an opportunity to put reliability on subscription.

The other reason they do this is that a large percentage of people forget to cancel subscriptions. I imagine one has to remember to cancel all these subscriptions with ownership transfer. I wouldn’t doubt they make it difficult and a separate process for each item.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cerberus
Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago
Reply to  Cerberus

BMW and Mercedes have had that for years, requiring a regular visit back to the dealership to get you over the next “X” days.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Actually, the reality of this, is John Deere: unashamedly screwing their owners.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  Cerberus

“I wouldn’t doubt they make it difficult and a separate process for each item.”

Step 1: get new credit card.
Step 2: cancel old credit card used to autopay subscriptions.

Problem solved!

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Step 3: take a severe credit rating hit, as the “average age of your available credit lines” has fallen.
Step 4: pay more in interest on any new loans, negating the savings of cancelling the old credit card.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

I don’t think so.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago
Reply to  Cerberus

They might not keep charging you, but if you don’t affirmatively cancel the service, they can keep billing you, which may later show up as an unpaid debt on your credit rating. (They keep changing the rules about how a credit rating is calculated, so I can’t say for sure what the situation is right now.)

TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
1 month ago

If they want to add something software based to older cars, a one time fee sounds a lot more appealing than a subscription. If they want to lock down heated seats, horsepower and other mechanicals, they can kiss my ass.

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