Looks like driving is about to become a very expensive privilege


Two articles at The Drive, when read together, made me frown – not least because of Miss D.‘s and my experience of car-buying after her old vehicle died a few weeks ago.

First, the CEO of Stellantis (the holding company for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep, among many other familiar vehicle brand names) had some painful words about costs.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has made his stance on electric vehicles known from the start. Chief among his concerns has always been how expensive they are to build, and he reiterated that during an earnings call just last week … Tavares made it clear that he believes not just OEMs but suppliers to them will be sharing the increased cost burden. “In this transformation of the industry, it’s not only about the OEMs, it’s also about the supplier base and, as you know, there is significant competition in the supplier base and that is going to be also a very nice Darwinian transition period for our suppliers as much as it is for the OEMs. It means that we are in the same boat, we are in the same transformation.”

. . .

Tavares went on to say that EVs are 50 percent more expensive to produce than internal combustion cars, calling the increased cost the “big gorilla in the room.”

There’s more at the link.

I guess Stellantis’ supplier base (the people who supply materials and components to make its vehicles) won’t be real happy to hear that – but neither should we as consumers, because guess who’s going to be paying for those more expensive EV’s?

Unfortunately, even over and above much higher vehicle prices, Stellantis (like many other manufacturers) is trying to claw every dollar it can out of consumers’ pockets by means of subscription fees for features that until now, drivers have taken for granted.

Stellantis is joining what seems like every other automaker in targeting revenue from software updates and subscription services—in this specific case, the auto group is expecting $22.5 billion by 2030. In-car purchases are key here, and they often make the hardware that’s already in place even more capable. It’s good for business, but depending on who you ask, it’s not always viewed as good business … [they] add up to more money being spent on features after a vehicle is purchased, a relatively new concept not all new car buyers are on board with.

Stellantis Software VP Mamatha Chamarthi explained these sorts of upgrades won’t be limited to satellite radio or GPS maps for off-roading. She indicated that customers will be able to wirelessly purchase updates that increase the horsepower of vehicles in the Dodge lineup and improve the towing performance of Ram trucks, among other brand-related upgrades … So when it comes to Stellantis, the “pay as you play” business model might be inescapable.

Again, more at the link.

Miss D. and I ran into the “pay-as-you-drive” thing last month, when we purchased her new car.  The manufacturer tries to use weasel words about how convenient it is to subscribe only to the features you want, but it nevertheless amounts to paying every month for features that until now drivers had taken for granted.  We opted out of the issue by buying a base-model vehicle with no such bells and whistles, but I was angry that it was even an issue.

Further research shows that every car manufacturer appears to be jumping on the same bandwagon.  It’s as if consumers were cows to be milked, and they want increased milk production – or else!

As vehicles become increasingly connected to the internet, car companies aim to rake in billions by having customers pay monthly or annual subscriptions to access certain features. Not content with the relatively low-margin business of building and selling cars, automakers are eager to pull down Silicon Valley-style profits … For automakers, the advantage of this model is clear. Not only do they get a stream of recurring revenue for years after an initial purchase … This approach can also allow carmakers to streamline manufacturing by building cars to more uniform specifications … Down the line, owners can add on the features they want à la carte. 

It’s all made possible by the advent of over-the-air software updates, which were pioneered by Tesla around a decade ago and are now entering the mainstream. Today’s vehicles are more internet-connected and computerized than ever before, meaning car companies can reach deep inside a vehicle to add new capabilities and tweak things from a distance.

Brands including Lexus, Toyota, and Subaru invite owners to pay for the convenience of being able to lock or start their cars remotely through an app. In some BMWs, you can pay to unlock automatic high-beam headlights, which dim for oncoming traffic. In 2020, BMW floated the idea of pay-as-you-go heated seats and steering wheels. General Motors and Ford both offer subscription plans for their hands-free highway driving systems … automakers see dollar signs. Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), Ford, and GM each aim to generate at least $20 billion in annual revenue from software services by 2030.

More at the link.

So, by 2030, the various car manufacturers are together expecting to make upwards of $100 billion every year by charging us for things that until now have been bought once (at vehicle purchase) and never paid for again.  Would someone please explain to me how that’s good for my consumer wallet, or helps me cope with EV’s that are likely to be 50% more expensive than their internal combustion predecessors?

Looks like we’re stuck with it, one way or another, just like farmers who buy John Deere machines are stuck with “licensing” their software (and being prevented from maintaining their own farm hardware) rather than buying it outright and having ownership rights over it.  One way or another, we all end up screwed.

If a vehicle manufacturer were to offer their cars without any subscription plans, on an old-fashioned “one-price-buys-everything-forever” basis, I reckon they might make a fortune from angry consumers.  Also, I reckon smart electronics techs who can write software, or program new computer chips, that override the manufacturers’ locks and provide access to all vehicle features, are about to make a fortune.



  1. This is one of the reasons I specified that the car needed to have as few features as possible, absolute base model, and a manual transmission. To be fair, the manual transmission was more a matter of security. If you're driving an econobox (and I do), a stick shift is the best theft prevention device on the market. The car thieves who know how to drive one are al looking for sports cars. My dusty (on purpose) econobox may as well be invisible to them. But all the space-age electronic features in cars are a distraction anyway.

  2. This dovetails nicely with the "own nothing, rent everything approach" A vehicle takes X credits per month, upgrades cost Y more, and if you don't behave it will be shut down.

  3. Been in the making a while. A few decades ago went to a dealer outside the major city. Turned out bench seat working pickup was a special order item. This was in a town in farm country.

    Me: All I see are city trucks here. Do you have a working pickup?
    Salesman: (oh shit look). These are the most purchased packages now.
    Me: So you don't have plain farm pickups.
    Salesman: (grumbly look). Those are special order.

    We leave.

  4. The irony here is that the incoming big tech of cars forces the little guys to enjoin the true meaning of hacking. Serves them right.

  5. There are already people out there who are figuring out how to modify vehicles to add features. I posted on this a couple of weeks ago:

    It isn't just cars. There are now tool makers that are making tools that you have to pay a subscription fee to keep them operating. Home depot is selling power tools that must be activated or they won't work.

  6. …And if they can "update" your car or truck, they can do anything else they want with it as well. Wanna limit the range of the car? Point & click. Wanna shut the car off if it's say, leaving California for good? Point & click.

    My wife commented that the door locks on my Jeep don't lock automatically when I put it in gear. I told her that the Jeep doesn't do ANYTHING without my hands or feet telling it what to do… just the way I like it. Face it; if you want to stay debt free and off "The Man's" radar, buy used…

  7. @tooldieguy hinted at it, "if you don't behave it will be shut down." but it needs larger consideration. How long until the Gov't can shut your vehicle down because of a reason where you offended those in power. "Remote shutdown" has already been implemented in rental cars, and it's only a software update to enable it for other 3rd party actors. Or if not Gov't, why not the "fact checkers" at one of the big tech companies.

  8. +1 for Steve S.

    A man much smarter than me told me, "We sell benefits not features."
    Most of today's marketing describes endless features without a nickel's worth of benefit for the owner. Like add ons or change orders, it allows the supplier to build profit padding into a low cost project,

    I bought a stripped version of the F-150 4WD 32 years ago, we called it a township truck like the local road crews drive. No radio or even cup holders. Put the radio in after the fact. I doubt a dealer would sell it to you that way today.

  9. As a retired car salesman/sales manager none of this surprises me. With few exceptions, I always found the car company "suits" clueless about the realities of actual car sales. While listening to them, the question in my mind was, "Would I have this person on my crew? Seldom was an affirmative answer.

    As an example, the manufacturers could build vehicles with strong protection to catalytic theft at a moderate cost. That would be a boon to consumers and the dealers.

  10. There are two components to this "pay more, pay often" thing.

    1) The automakers, like every other company, focus on increasing sales and profits, not maintaining them.

    2) Since they are now manufacturing vehicles which last a lot longer than those of the '60's (175K miles vs. 75K) and since families are getting smaller (less cars/household), they can't get revenues from lots of new-car sales.

    What to do? Charge for everything else. In another industry, it's called "SAAS": Software As A Service, where you pay annually for a license and get upgrades. It won't be long before Microsoft plays that card with consumer-grade Windows.

  11. makes me miss my old suburban
    350cid V8
    QuadraJet Carb
    NP 208 transfer case
    one, yes one chip in the distributer instead of points (but a points distributer was still available as a "horsepower" aftermarket item).

    Not as efficient as my newer Subdivision, but I could fix it.

    At some point in the future they (defined as them who are not us) will prohibit you driving an antique because it allows you to avoid all their controls.

  12. I'll be driving my "newer" SubDivision as long as I can.

    Replaced the transmission already.

    Body is good, needs a few things.

    268,000 + miles on the original engine, still doesn't use an appreciable amount of oil between changes.

    I'm more willing to pay for a new crate 350 or an aftermarket "horsepower" type 350 than I am a new truck.

    $55900 MSRP for the base gas powered model!!

    I can buy a lot of upgrades / repairs for that.

    Of course having fallback vehicles is necessary if you do the "old" game.

  13. Electric and Hydrogen fuel cells are the only options. More nuclear and green powerplants with solar cells and battery packs for home use are the answers. Anyone who believes Oil is the answer is living in 1920 or owns shares in oil companies. It is not endless and it pollutes. Crap how many decades did we live with lead based fuel additives???

  14. The 2015 truck we bought to replace our much beloved 2006 truck that gave its life for hubby's, came with onstar. The dealer 'gave' us a 3 month subscription.
    And the gps mapping doesn't work unless you have an onstar subscription.
    I don't know who all gets the money, but they don't get it from us.

  15. Add to that dealerships not stocking cars in quantity anymore and requiring you to pay and purchase long prior to delivery.

    Saves the dealerships on inventory costs and storage and can let them reduce their footprints as well.

    There are some Big 3 dealerships around here are requiring you to pay for your car at the time of order – and its expected that delivery will be in 6 months from your purchase date.

  16. My 2018 RAM pickup has Sirius radio. I refuse to pay for it.

    Someone could make a fortune building and installing a unit that would replace that, but would still have the backup camera, the radio, and a DVD player.

  17. They simply did the math. It's cheaper to stop special-ordering cars, and special-assembling cars to order, and just putting everything into everything – one model aside from colors – and then trying to upsell you on slightly more than you went in looking for. What they waste in things you don't end up activating, they save plus more in the manufacturing and delivery process.

    It's all like my phone. I paid a small amount to buy it initially, and now I pay a larger sum monthly to make it work.

  18. This is why I'm putting off buying anything that has any sort of electronic tech in it as long as I can (exception made for computers). My old vehicles and old tools are doing fine, and when they aren't they can be fixed without a dealer being involved. I've even rebuilt the old ni-cad battery packs for my DeWalt tools with NiMh cells rather than buy the new lithium-powered jobs.

    Same goes for connected thermostats, refrigerators TVs and the like. I do have a gadget on order that will allow me to make my home "smart", using all the modern gee-gaws, but without replying on the Internet and some snoopy service like She Who Shall Not Be Named. If I can't do it internally and disconnected, then I've decided I don't need to do it.

  19. "Thank you for starting your Ford Eco-Box. Please listen to the following special offer before you can put it in gear."

  20. The computer builders have been doing the pay to play business for a while, it seems. Bought a laptop from Costco two years ago. I ignore all the small notes from HP that have popped up along the way. Well, two years old, HP turned off my dvd player, it seems. Had to find another driver for it. Guess who I won't be looking at for any more computers?

  21. If it's all built in it can be hacked/rooted. Look for a thriving business in rooting accessory systems, at the cost of voiding the warranty, of course. As soon as that warranty is gone though…

  22. And on top of this, think about the mandate to make all vehicles after 2026 able to be shut off by the authorities. A measure to install vehicle kill switches into every new car, truck, and SUV sold in this country was passed in the infrastructure bill, with a 5 year grace period.

    "The bill, which has been signed into law by President Biden, states that the kill switch, which is referred to as a safety device, must “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.” In other words, Big Brother will constantly be monitoring how you drive. If you do something the system has been programmed to recognize as driver impairment, your car could just shut off, which could be incredibly dangerous."

    "But wait, there’s more. This kill switch “safety” system would be open, or in other words there would be a backdoor. That would allow police or other government authorities to access it whenever. Would they need a warrant to do that? Likely not. Even better, hackers could access the backdoor and shut down your vehicle."


  23. Bobby – "It's all like my phone. I paid a small amount to buy it initially, and now I pay a larger sum monthly to make it work."

    We used to call that strategy – Sell you the razor cheap and hook you for the blades.

    We're in our 60s, and we bought our first new vehicle in January 2017, a 2016 Chevy Colorado pickup with the W/T trim. W/T stands for Work Truck. No Sirius, no bluetooth, no cruise control. Power driver seat goes up and down and back and forth. And yet it has power door locks and power windows. I wish it had a manual radio, as the electronic one loses the time every few weeks. But it has the backup camera, so that's nice.

    I added an aftermarket class III trailer hitch and wiring, mud flaps, running boards and a sprayed in bed liner for under a grand. Now that the warranty has expired, I may eventually buy a replacement steering wheel that's cruise control capable, and have the dealer turn that on.


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