Hyundai Will Lock Some In-Car Features Behind a Paywall

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If you were to ask ten people what they hate most about modern cars, nine of them would probably answer in-car subscriptions. Paying extra to unlock access to hardware already installed in a vehicle is preposterous. Despite the backlash, Hyundai is announcing Features-on-Demand (FODs), which is marketing jargon for pay-to-use features.

This move is on the agenda of the newly founded Hyundai Connected Mobility. Established in Europe last month, the entity brings together the Mocean car subscription and Bluelink connected services programs. The South Korean brand isn’t detailing which features could be blocked but says FODs would have the benefit of improving older cars as well.

Marcus Welz, Managing Director of Hyundai Connected Mobility, told Autocar it’ll be possible to improve older cars with new features: “What you have often seen in the industry is an old use case, for example, heated seats. This was brought to the customer using new technology such as software updates. However, I think the benefit of feature-on-demand is exactly the opposite: to bring new features into older cars.”

He was referring to rolling out software updates to improve the performance of existing hardware. For example, an older Hyundai EV could become more efficient by tweaking the electric motors and battery pack. Similarly, safety improvements could be possible by revising the sensors. Of course, these upgrades would come at a cost.

BMW has been heavily criticized for putting heated seats behind a paywall. To a lesser extent, so has Mercedes for its more advanced rear-wheel steering setup. Audi does it as well with dual-zone climate control. On some cars with the Four Rings, you also have to pay extra for high-beam assist and adaptive cruise control.

2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 (Euro-spec)

Stellantis estimates subscriptions and features on demand will blossom into a major revenue stream. The automotive conglomerate with no fewer than 14 brands thinks it’ll earn an extra $4.3 billion annually by 2026. The amount is projected to reach $21.5 billion by 2030 with “software-enabled product offerings.”

However, not all brands are jumping on the in-car subscriptions/on-demand features bandwagon. Renault’s low-cost division Dacia mocked BMW and its now-defunct heated seats subscription by offering hot water bottles to people test driving a car. The Romanian marque is also against forcing people to buy advanced driving assistance systems. However, more and more of these technologies are becoming mandatory in the European Union.

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