I have always loved cars. My high school, Willowbrook in Villa Park, Illinois, had one of the best high school auto mechanic programs in the US. They used to win contests all over the country on troubleshooting.
My first job out of college was with the 3M Auto Trades division selling adhesives, coatings, sealers, and sandpaper! It was fun to go into all kinds of shops. I had some custom shops on my route and it was cool to see what they were doing.
But, the car business is fundamentally changing.
The other day BMW said it would start charging monthly for features like heated seats in your car. They can use software to turn on or turn off the feature depending on whether you pay.
I recall a lot of advocates for fully electric cars talking about how they loved driving around a “piece of software”. Engineers could work on the code of the vehicle and simply upload it via satellite to everyone’s car. That seems really cool.
But, in an era where privacy is becoming more and more important, having a centralized system to know exactly where your car is on the grid might not be a benefit. If the federal government instituted social credit scores, they might even be able to disable your car.
If you look at things from BMWs perspective though, your opinion might not change but you might not be as outraged.
The car business has a few profit centers. The first is when they sell you the car. They make a nice profit, but they really increase their margins when you bring your car to their dealership for service.
With a fully electronic car fleet which some manufacturers are projecting in the near future, you don’t need to go to the dealer for service.
Cut out a profit center, companies need to find a way to make it up. It’s hard to increase the price of the car by too much, so instituting a monthly charge and trying to turn some of their income streams into a SaaS model makes sense to them.
For consumers, it is a radical change.
I have two cars now. One is diesel-powered, and the other is gas-powered. I admit, having an electric car for an in-town vehicle is super enticing. Especially given gas prices versus electrical costs where I live.
There are certainly benefits to electric cars, and there are benefits to fossil fuel-powered vehicles too. It isn’t this vs that. You have to look at it from 80,000 feet overhead. The entire macro view is a lot different, especially when you look at costs/opportunity costs of the entire timeline of production for each.
The more software that is centrally controlled and built into cars, the less control that owners have over them. Cars used to mean “freedom”. When you got your license, it was one small step to independence.
The best outcome is that there is a lot of freedom of choice for consumers rather than government edicts. Let consumers decide what is right for the way they want to structure their lives. Let the free market decide the price of all the things that go into building and operating a vehicle.
You can imagine a day when freedom-loving people keep Cuban bodymen and mechanics employed as they tool around in their software-free cars. In that dark scenario, the price of gasoline/diesel-powered older models will be higher than newer 100% software-powered cars if people value their freedom and privacy.
I have always been a car guy, too. In high school/college, I loved fixing my car, just to learn about how cars work -- and to save money I didn't have. Now, I can appreciate what is under the hood without having the need to do it myself. Gone are the days where I'm scraping my knuckles on a stripped bolt, trying to get into the furthest crevice of the engine bay.
I have been looking forward to the day when my car drives itself, but I realize that others aren't so sanguine about it. For me, it's a luxury to sit back and work or read (or have a drink) while not having to navigate traffic and deal with the maniacs on the highways. I'm not talking about people who drive fast, but people who drive irresponsibly. Passing on the right at 80mph, texting, veering between 3 lanes in one change, etc. Every day on I-55 in Chicago there is a roll over because one of these people did not know how to handle their car, and now I'm 30 minutes later than I would have been.
Self-driving cars would make the roads more efficient and safe, while giving me the ultimate luxury of having my own personal "train car." Basically a chauffeur. To me that's a good tradeoff for the "freedom" of sitting in stop and go traffic, stressing myself out. But it appears to be getting pushed back much further than they thought; obviously it is much more complex than they thought.
I still love the classics, and I will retain that skill as a hobby.
Otherwise I'm supportive of cars advancing with "software" for my commuting purposes. There will be plenty of cool cars still around for my Sunday drive in the summer, should I want to do that, so I'm not worried about it.
As for the subscriptions, well, like you said, the free market will sort that out.
I was never a car guy but I’m finding mechanics to be unreliable and expensive, and thus by necessity, have become “YouTube Certified” on many mechanical repairs. And have gone to older “analog” vehicles because of the reasons you cite. Right now my newest is a 2009 Lincoln MKZ with 170000 miles. Even that has more tech than I would like now. But it’s too cheap to drive and fix to justify getting rid of it.