VW says some car features could soon be offered on a pay-per-hour basis

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Words: Matthew Hansen   |   Photos Tom Gasnier
12 Jun 2021

Volkswagen are one of a selection of brands currently flirting with the idea of bringing in pay-to-play subscription services to its cars.

The advent of over-the-air software update functionality has helped enable new thought among engineers and executives that certain features may only be offered to customers temporarily on a subscription basis. 

The move is one that's been met with mixed feelings among critics and the public alike, prompting questions of whether those who buy their cars outright truly own them. 

Most notably, BMW recently faced backlash after only offering Apple CarPlay on a three-year basis in certain cars, with customers forced to pay for a subscription renewal at the end of the period. BMW has since made the tech standard and perpetual. 

But, this hasn't been enough for Volkswagen's executives to tone down the way they talk about subscription tech. Speaking at an 'innovation talk' earlier this week, Volkswagen sales chief Klaus Zellmer doubled down on the claims. 

“In the future, our customers will buy, lease, share or rent cars just for a weekend, and we can use software to provide them with whatever they need over the air,” he said.

“The ID family has been designed for further development, with OTA updates to improve the software’s performance and tailor it to our customers’ needs.”

In a separate interview, with German outlet Die Welt, Zellmer said that Volkswagen is weighing up charging customers for autonomous driving on a per-hour basis. “We assume a price of around seven euros per hour. So if you do not want to drive yourself for three hours you can pay 21 euros to get it done,” he said.

It's one of the first times that a manufacturer has talked about vehicle subscription services based on such small payment intervals. On one hand it could make sense for those who only wish to use autonomous driving for special occasions. But those who envisage using it to drive to and from work each day might be in for a rude awakening. 

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