Car Extras: This is how you can activate additional equipment digitally

Until now, once a car rolled out of the factory, there wasn’t much that could be done in terms of equipment. Now, however, a new business model for car manufacturers is reshuffling the cards – and opening up unimagined possibilities.

Did you miss an important extra when buying a car? Forgot the heated seats or the cruise control, and now unhappy despite a new car? Simply book later!


Sell ​​your car easily online at the best price

Top prices from verified buyers – personal advice – hassle-free processing thanks to free pick-up!

How does it work? The desired technical features are already pre-installed. If required, ordered and then of course paid for, they are simply activated digitally in the car. “Functions on demand” is the name of the business model at Audi, for example, which roughly translates to “functions to order”. Mercedes speaks of “digital products”, BMW of “digital services and extra services”.

Which features can be activated online?

Car owners can use this technology – depending on their mood and account balance – to book special equipment for their car online and without visiting a workshop. Activation takes place “Over The Air” (OTA for short), i.e. via the wireless Internet.

Mercedes EQS 53

In the Mercedes EQS, the all-electric S-Class, the steering angle of the rear wheels can be increased from 4.5 to 10 degrees.

Even the driving behavior can be improved later in some models with rear-wheel steering or adaptive chassis. The car owner buys the desired additional function via the manufacturer app, in the car’s infotainment system or in the manufacturer’s online shop or books a test month first.

Necessary sensors or technology (e.g. heating pad and switch for the seat heating) are already installed in the car, a software update via radio only activates the use in the car.

Which manufacturers offer the OTA extras?

Which manufacturers offer this? Always more! Tesla is once again a pioneer here. In Germany, Audi, BMW, Porsche and Mercedes are furthest along. Of course, OTA extras are only possible in newer models; at BMW it only works in the current 2 Series Active Tourer, in the electric sedan i4 and in the purely electric SUV iX. “The offer varies greatly, from market to market, from vehicle to vehicle,” said a BMW spokesman for AUTO BILD.

Auto expert Prof. Stefan Bratzel from the Center of Automotive Management (CAM) predicts: “This business model promises billions in profits in the future.

How much does the new service cost?

Feature subscription pricing varies by feature and duration. In the ConnectedDrive Store from BMW – as the people of Munich call their “online workshop” – there is a month’s seat heating for 17 euros, 170 euros per year for the warm buttocks, unlimited heating of the front seats for 385 euros.

More complex systems such as cruise control with automatic speed adjustment and spacers can be paid for with 880 euros, in this case only a permanent purchase is possible.

The features can be booked in real time via smartphone via the manufacturer app.

In the electric Mercedes EQS, the steering angle of the rear-wheel steering can be increased from 4.5 to ten degrees, making the luxury liner more manoeuvrable. However, it also costs 489 euros per year or 1169 euros for three years – after that it has to be ordered again, a lifetime term is not offered.
If you want to drive the EQS longer and tick the better rear-axle steering when you buy it, you can save in this case: the first purchase costs 1547 euros for the permanent option – so the whole thing is worth it after less than four years!

How soon can I get the digital extra?

Theoretically, the subsequently requested features are available within minutes if the car is connected to the cell phone network and the payment has reached the manufacturer.

Advantage for manufacturers: Series production is simplified. Many extras are already pre-installed and can only be activated later.

However, Mercedes points out in its online shop that it can take several hours after the order has been placed. Once the confirmation has been received via SMS or app feedback, you can start using it immediately.

What are the advantages of OTA technology?

The car is becoming more flexible! Anyone who had previously foregone an important extra when purchasing could only get annoyed afterwards – or have it retrofitted, which was sometimes time-consuming and expensive. Now you can get the desired additional equipment digitally in the car in a short time.

Depending on the manufacturer, a free or inexpensive trial period is offered for many functions. So you can first test whether the investment is worthwhile. And: Thanks to OTA extras, used car buyers finally have the opportunity to subsequently adapt the car to their wishes.

First-time buyers who know exactly when they want to drive off the vehicle again can also save with the model: the LED matrix light, for example, costs 696 euros from Audi for three years. Anyone who wants to sell after three years does not need to pay the 1339 euros for lifetime use of the car.

The short-term models are often worthwhile: Seasonal extras such as seat heating can be canceled in warm months, the cruise control with traffic jam assistant can only be booked for the annoying traffic jam trip on vacation.

What does Functions on demand bring to manufacturers?

Apart from the hope of additional income: Production is simplified for manufacturers. Because up to now, the cars have been manufactured according to customer configurations, almost tailor-made. With functions on demand, manufacturers can theoretically always produce the same car, apart from the paintwork, upholstery and other details, of course.

Software and hardware for the special functions are pre-installed and can be activated and deactivated at any time. According to the management consultancy McKinsey, an average of 260 euros additional profit for the manufacturer per car.

Also, are there any potential problems?

Of course, the digital extra sausage counter can also turn into a cost trap for customers. The offer is tempting to continue improving your car even after you have bought it – at sometimes high additional costs.

And what about used car buyers? An example: the first owner booked a number of additional functions, and during the test drive the car shines with a lot of special equipment. The danger: After a successful sale, the options gradually expire.

Tesla Model X

With its models, Tesla offers, among other things, the option of booking seat heating for a month or longer.

A BMW spokesman told AUTO BILD: “Sellers are obliged by the General Terms and Conditions (GTC) in the ConnectedDrive store to point out additional functions and their terms.”

Stupid only if the seller has not read the terms and conditions – as is usually the case with the endless regulations. Or the buyer has no idea that such a thing as OTA facilities even exist. Awareness work is needed here!

Will energy consumption increase?

If more technology is installed ex works, the cars could become heavier – and thus consume more fuel or electricity. The bottom line is that car expert Prof. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer gives the all-clear: “Functions that require additional sensors or other mechanics can certainly have an impact on the vehicle weight. Overall, I assume that the vehicle weights will only be insignificantly reduced by the new possibilities increase.” The ADAC also expects the manufacturers to “proceed very sensitively” here.

Will OTA increase car prices?

Are the cars generally more expensive because, on average, there is more technology on board? Dudenhöffer: “The question often arises as to whether different parts are more expensive to produce than just one standard part, which is somewhat more expensive to produce but significantly reduces the complexity costs – more variety of parts, more complicated logistics, more complicated production.”

So it is the same here as with so many things: It depends on the individual case. Dudenhöffer: “It is unlikely that very expensive parts will be installed that are hardly used by the customer via OTA. The controller would veto that.”

The features can be selected and booked in the online shops of BMW and other manufacturers.

ADAC expert Arnulf Thiemel is also optimistic: “Since the prices for unlimited activation have so far been very similar to those for installation ex works, the new options can be an advantage. Because a classic hardware retrofit not only costs the new parts, but also their installation. This is usually much more expensive – if at all possible.”

The ADAC demands that customers should not suffer any disadvantages compared to the installation of additional equipment ex works, such as higher prices.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button