BMW made waves back in 2020 – and not in a good way – when news broke that the automaker was planning on charging customers a subscription fee to use relatively standard equipment already fitted to their cars – things like heated seats. Toyota has expressed an interest in following a similar path. But thankfully, Ford fans, for one, can mark themselves safe from the tyranny of pay-to-use automotive hardware.
According to Motor1, Ford CEO Jim Farley recently went on the record saying that he’d “be surprised” if the company ever resorted to such tactics. “I don’t think that’s our approach,” he says.
That’s good news, because Ford would have plenty of opportunities to start billing customers monthly for using equipment already installed on their vehicles. Imagine having to pay a subscription just to use your Ford F-150’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist, or buying a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 only to find that the active MagneRide dampers operate in passive mode until you fork over $20 a month. Things like that could help an automaker reduce build complexity by allowing equipment to be installed across entire trim levels or whole model lines, and then billing customers for the equipment post-sale. But, we’d wager, customer satisfaction would plummet.
Connected Services: The Exception To The Rule
This isn’t to say that Ford will never charge a monthly subscription for anything outside of in-car WiFi and satellite radio. On the contrary, Ford CEO Jim Farley says that charging subscriptions from both commercial and retail customers to use certain types of in-car connected services makes sense, providing “dynamic routing or coaching for the driver” as examples. Whether the list will ever include Ford’s new BlueCruise semi-autonomous driving system is unclear, but based on Farley’s overall stance on subscription fees for already-installed equipment, we’d wager that BlueCruise is safe.
Ford forecasts that vehicle connected services could represent a $20-billion market by 2030, and the company isn’t about to lose out on all that opportunity. But when it comes to charging a subscription fee to use your heated seats, Ford says “pass.”