Honda’s Subscription Feature Plans Won’t Look Like BMW’s Heated Seats

The Japanese automaker doesn't seem interested in charging people for features that are already installed in cars.
An 11th-generation Honda Civic Sedan

Automakers from Stellantis to Audi are trying to milk more money out of owners via subscriptions after they purchase their vehicles. The most unpopular among the group is BMW, which may charge for the use of installed hardware on some cars in the future. Honda executives told The Drive recently they won’t go down either road. Honda’s Vice President of Connected, Automated, Shared, Electrified & Energy Jay Joseph said subscriptions are inevitable because most owners want data-enabled features and data isn’t free. However, beyond that, he and other Honda executives say there are few things to charge a subscription fee for.

“One of our operating principles from a customer perception is, ‘Hey, if I’ve already paid for the hardware, how dare you charge me for the electronic switch to control it?'” Joseph said. But features that require cellular connectivity cost money; automakers aren’t cellular data providers. For features like Acura’s AcuraLink remote start: “Someone has to pay for that connection fee because there’s an operator. You know, there’s a service provider.”

Other subscription-type services Honda may offer will likely only take advantage of existing hardware, according to Honda’s EVP of Business and Sales for American Honda Motor Co. Dave Gardner. “This idea that you put all the features in every vehicle, and then ask a consumer to pay a subscription to turn some of them on, I think from a customer satisfaction point, that’s probably not the right way to go.” (Looking at you, BMW.)

That’s not all Gardner had to say, either.

“There are things that we can do to the vehicle through software, that somebody may want to avail themselves of (later),” he said

Repurposing existing hardware customers ordered in their vehicles to add value could be profitable for Honda later—just not at the cost of safety. “[We] put hardware in the cars to enable crash mitigation, and lane keeping, lane departure warnings, and those kinds of things. And that’s safety. You shouldn’t have to pay extra for safety. But there are other things we can do with those sensors. In parking, self-parking, and some things like that. Those have extra value for people.”

That’s the sort of thing Honda may ask people to pay subscription fees for later: new ways to use hardware already in the car. “We can add those things over the air, after the fact. We can update them, We can imagine new features like that. We think the opportunity lies in that kind of thinking.”

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