Automakers keep searching for ways to generate higher profits. On-demand features and subscriptions are a new strategy in the industry but the reactions have been mixed so far. Audi, one of the most technologically advanced manufacturers, says it will increase the scope of on-demand features in its cars starting next year – but not as a new way to earn money but as an answer to existing customer demand, it says.
As of now, Audi's on-demand features are limited to the brand’s E-Tron and E-Tron Sportback models, but the company plans to make these upgrades available for a broader range of models in the future. This shift will allow vehicle owners to enhance their driving experience by adding new functions and features after the initial purchase, all on an ad hoc basis. The current offerings from Audi include an LED Matrix package that seamlessly switches between dipped and main beam, a light function package that incorporates light animations during car locking and unlocking, and a semi-autonomous parking function that can locate a parking space and autonomously park the vehicle.
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"With our next generation of electronic architecture, we will bring more offers to 'function on demand,' and you will see year by year, we will bring new functions in the cars,” Audi's Technical boss, Oliver Hoffmann, commented to Autocar. "A few years ago, there were ideas to generate more revenue on digitalization functions than by selling cars."
What sets Audi's on-demand features apart is the ease of integration. Drivers can enhance their car's functionality directly through the myAudi app, eliminating the need for a visit to the dealer or any additional hardware installation.
This development comes in the wake of BMW's decision to stop charging extra fees for hardware-based functions on its cars, due to low "customer acceptance." However, Hoffmann remains confident that on-demand functionality will become "quite normal in the future," underscoring the ever-evolving landscape of automotive customization.
Automakers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz faced backlash when introducing subscription-based products and services in their vehicles. Still, an S&P Global Mobility survey from this summer showed that consumers are generally receptive to subscriptions when they offer exposure to new features and technologies. When offered free trials or existing subscriptions on newer vehicles, 82 percent of the survey's respondents expressed their willingness to consider purchasing subscription-based services for their future vehicle purchases.
Just earlier this week, Porsche, another brand under the Volkswagen Auto Group (VAG) portfolio, recently announced its plans to integrate Google services into its upcoming vehicle generations. This integration will introduce a wide array of Google products, including Google Maps, Google Assistant, and access to a diverse range of apps through the Google Play Store.