Subscription Car Audio in the Future

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Sony Afeela

In the future,  more car makers are expected to offer features on a monthly fee basis, including audio and infotainment features.

In January, Harman announced an OEM package for car makers that lets them charge a subscription fee to add “immersive audio” and different concert hall settings.

Also in January, Steve Koenig of the Consumer Technology Association stated that it is conceivable auto makers will charge a fee for AM/FM service (see wifihifi).

BMW, Toyota, Audi, Porsche, Tesla, GM and others area already offering some form of subscription features from remote start to heated seats.

Overall, in-vehicle payments for various features will increase five fold from their current level to nearly $26 billion globally by 2031, reported Jacob’s Media citing a study from BIS Research.

Take for instance the upcoming Sony car due in the spring of 2026 (named Afeela).

The car’s centerpiece is entertainment with a heavy focus on subscription-based features. Sony’s library of music, video, gaming and other into infotainment will likely be offered via subscription, reports The Verge.

The subscription model is expected to gain ground especially in electric vehicles (EVs) That’s because in order to qualify for the tax credit offered on EVs going forward, car makers must keep their base price below a certain threshold (as per the new Inflation Reduction Act).

As of 2023, to quality for a tax credit of up to $7,500, an EV must have an MSRP under $80K for SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks, and under $55,000 for other vehicles.

Despite some backlash among consumers, Forbes, as we reported,  said the subscription trend will sweep the auto industry, as car makers charge for features we currently take for granted.

This may prove a boon to the aftermarket, which can offer an installed alternative that doesn’t require an ongoing subscription.

The aftermarket is also exploring through the CTA, new ways it might benefit from subscription services.


Photo: Sony Afeela at CES 2023

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  1. This can only help the aftermarket. People are sick of monthly fees on everything these days.

  2. Terrible. This kind of nonsense needs to come to an end. Subscription based ANYTHING (that doesn’t involve a back end, like cellular services, for example) should not be tolerated by consumers. Period. the fact that companies keep talking about expanding subscription services is a bad direction for consumers across the board. Ink for printers, heated seats.. now a better sounding radio? What next?
    Subscription business models need to disappear. They’re a greedy cash grab by companies to ensure a ‘constant revenue stream’ without needing to provide any actual products or innovations.

  3. BOON to the aftermarket…? YES in reverse engineering but not in “remove the OEM and plug in the aftermarket”. Obviously as technology plays a larger and larger role in a consumer’s everyday life, at work, at home and in the car, the folks who develop the implementation of the technology will experience the boon.

  4. this is getting out of control. We as consumers buy a vehicle under the impression that we own the features in the vehicle. I have talked with numerous people about this that are frustrated with having to pay for these features and services. I can understand app based services having a monthly for the data transfer, but having to pay to use heated seats is simply ridiculous. I just paid $90K for a new truck and just recently had to pay an additional $80 to keep the onboard navigation system working as it should. I would love to hear from the auto manufactures how they can justify doing this? to get some of these features we are already having to buy a more premium packaged vehicle. Now we have to continue to pay more for that package.

  5. Pretty soon you’ll have to pay a fee for air conditioning usage, windshield wipers, and the glove box.

    Reminds me of the old Seinfeld episode where David Putty is ripping Jerry off on the new car. A charge for keys. KEYS?! “Well how are you going to start it?”

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