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Subscribing to Your Car

Imagine that you just bought a brand new or even a used 4×4. Then imagine that you can’t use the optional equipment without paying a monthly fee to the manufacturer. The air conditioner costs $15 a month, the ability to tow a trailer is $20 a month, and engaging the four wheel drive sets you back $40 a month. Heck, even the seat warmers cost $4 a month. It will cost you $20 a month to use your key fob to remotely unlock or start your vehicle. Sounds crazy, right? Who would buy a $45,000 truck, only to have to pay more to use most of the features that you already paid extra for?

Auto manufacturers are already doing it, and they stand to make billions in profits with the new scheme that doesn’t require them to do a thing to rake in the dollars. Toyota has already started the project. So have BMW, Subaru, Ford, Lexus, GM, and Tesla. If you think that you are immune because you own a used vehicle, think again.

Buried in the agreements that you signed when you bought the vehicle, the manufacturer retains all rights to the options installed in your car. They are letting you use them as part of a free trial. Ever since the 2018 model year, these hidden restrictions have been installed in software of new cars, allowing them to turn virtually anything in your vehicle into a subscription service that can be taken away from you at the manufacturer’s whim. You are one over the air software update from getting fleeced.

Some of the options proposed: limiting the performance of your car unless you pay extra, limiting the range of electric vehicles unless you pay extra for “bonus miles,” as well as simpler things like options and extras.

The last time I posted on this, I predicted that a new industry would take off: an industry centered around hacking your car. It turns out that I was correct. That day is already here. I drive an F150, and people are already doing some interesting hacks on Ford vehicles. Enter a piece of software called FORScan. You can already do some interesting things. Reprogramming your temperature gauges to bee more than just meaningless scales, for one thing.

Adding options that aren’t available to your model like automatic folding mirrors, daytime running lights, and more are possible.

Manufacturers are already taking steps to combat this, but the war over controlling vehicles is happening. Manufacturers are putting in software the requires you to be an authorized mechanic to access the electronics on the car.

One repair industry executive told a conference in January 2020 that he had heard of “at least two [other]” car makers moving toward an authorized-access model. Volkswagen may be one of them. Ross-Tech’s Vega said that the electric ID.4 is the first U.S. Volkswagen model with Vehicle Diagnostic Protection, requiring authentication from VW servers to alter nodes. Volkswagen (which did not return emails for comment) has seemingly not offered access to customers, or software like VCDS. As of July 2021, VCDS’s founder and its most fervent customers were trading anger, disbelief, and Right to Repair links in a long-running thread.

I don’t see it as any different than the fight over unlocking your cell phone, but with this much money at stake, you can bet it will be a big fight. In fact, I have already done a few hacks to my truck. I got rid of that annoying automatic start/stop feature in my F-150, for one thing.

18 replies on “Subscribing to Your Car”

Mine is a ‘17.
Last year before all the nanny shit. It WILL last me the rest of my life if my ‘03 Tundra was any indication.

We got a used ’17 Tundra… between my functional requirements, my wife’s dislike for the pudgy appearance of the earlier models, and my dislike for the nasty angular appearance of the newer models, this particular truck was Just Right, even if it did come with some fancy features that I never would have chosen on a new vehicle.
The collision-alert features are actually kind of nice, given that it’s a much larger vehicle than I’m accustomed to, but it’s annoying to get a collision warning when I’m a few feet from a hay field and going 2 MPH.
And, yeah, with all the obligatory new crap in the new models, I think I’ll be trying to keep my ’01 Prius forever.

John Deere started that kind of usury a few years back with their farm equipment, i think its more to do with repairs and parts though. Looks like a farmer revolt started against it recently.

Back aways, decided it was time to go alt-vehicle mentality. Been buying 88-94 Chevy TBI pickup trucks, find them for the hauling to 500 bucks, put like 3 grand in new parts like radiator, alt, belts, all new brakes lines and rotors/drums, new fuel tank pump and lines, all new steering bits, strip the rear leafs down replace the leaf sliders, new end bushes, really gives a smooth ride, replace all the u joints, all the small bits, makes a serious difference in ride and reliability, parts are still very reasonable because GM’s part commonality prior to that 94 cut off year.
The TBI heads are pretty close to the earlier turbo heads but with smaller valves that get better streetable power. Recently removed the TBI and distributer on one, put in a Davis Unified Ignition HEI distributer, first because they are handbuilt and tuned on a dist dyno to order, have a great high energy dwell module, the vac advance is tunable, and they put an excellent street mechanical advance curve in them, the GM peformance crate distributer is pretty good too, and a hudred bucks less, but the DUI is really nice, installed a 2 barrel 350cfm Holley, a 2 inch thick carb to TBI intake adapter spacer, thickest that fits and get the hood to closed, every inch is a great boost in street usable power, cut off the catalytic converter, weld up a 4.0 inch by 36 inch megaphone thats 5 inches at the big end, with a reverse cone and 2.75 inch outlet, located like 6 inches or less after the merge pipe, pipe that into a 4 inch inlet stainless flowmaster 4 chamber muffler, the big block one, located far back as physically possible like behind the rear bumper, new timing chain, getting crazy low and midrange power with 19-20 mpg, if you baby the throttle most of the time.
Figured out a rugged lasting door hinge bearing and shaft to fix the bad door sag those trucks have, R&R all the cab and nose to frame rubber mounts, the 2 torsion bar cross bar isolators, and Kyobi high pressure nitrogen shocks. For auto tranny trucks need a vacuum sensing kick down/overdrive kit, and put a plug in the knock sensor hole, press fit the knock sensor into a piece of wood.
You end up with a really super trusty set of wheels, lasts years and just the money saved on insurance compared to new pays it back like a year. On the 4th truck. That way always have spare parts too. No EMP issues either. The HEI system is well grounded and isolated due to the lethal voltage they produce which essentially hardens them to EMP.
In WV, basic insurance is 38 a month, plates are 35 a year, what I save is so far ahead of the gas milage as to be a no brainer.

Have to say, changing our thinking is going to be a prerequisite because clown world and shit. Found a stripped bare no engine or wiring barn VW beetlebug for my wife, parts for them are even cheaper than chevy bits. Rebuilt the engine for just shy of 600, thats with new heads too. 35-45 MPG baby! Gave her disk brakes, fabbed up a stainless header, put a DUI distributer on it, darn thing goes 70 in the highway. She loves it. Did the same total R&R as the chevy’s. Its a everyday driver.

The bums running shit and their corporate vultures can go hump a rollin’ flyin’ donut.

have a 2021 tacoma…what it boils down to is using their app so they can track you more…the only useful thing i lose, and to me it ain’t that useful, is remote start…on toyotas, the car dies as soon as you unlock it and you have to restart it…kind of pointless if you ask me…to keep that “perk” i would have to pay for it after a year i believe…i said fuck it and deleted the app…i don’t need it to play music or use bluetooth…

Some CNC machine tools are sold like that. They have all the bells and whistles included in the control software. However, they all require “unlock keys” which have to be purchased separately. Some CNC machining centers even have GPS locators; simply moving a machine from one part of a plant to another may cause it to shut itself down, with days or weeks before it can be reset by on on-site tech. (at a substantial fee, too)

Even worse: some airliners are sold like that, with safety features “not installed” (not enabled in the software) by default. IIRC, this seems to have been a factor in the 737 MAX crashes.

DC – the 88-94 Chevy/GMC trucks were and still are some of the best looking truck designs that Detroit has put out in the past 50 years (ignoring the 50’s and 60’s). I’ve owned 2 different ones over the years. Strong 350 engines and decent ride. Still see many of them on the roads in various states of repair, which leads to the old saying that “Chevy’s run poorly longer than most other cars run”. Seriously, how many other vehicles from the late 80’s do you see on the road?

Being made into an annuity makes me crazy. I deal with it with software all the time. One of my packages cost $1400, which is fine, it’s a market leader. Updates were half that.

Now, it’s ‘cloud’, which means you need to log in, and pay $1400/year. You literally cannot use some of the features if you aren’t logged in.

Turns out, their competition is actually better and costs less albeit it’s built for pros that know what they are doing.

That said, they’ll keep it up until a rebuild industry starts up. Like D.C. said above, there are already companies that build fuel, ignition, and computer systems.

But it won’t be long that someone will hack it. They’ll screw over some employee who will walk with the software on a thumb drive (if it hasn’t happened already).

If I buy something, I want to actually have, use, and control it.
It’s the reason I buy DVDs and physical books over streaming if I want to keep it.
ALL streaming is one form or another of rental; even Amazon has admitted in court that your “bought” movie or book only lasts until the content owner ends their contract with Amazon.
If they make you rent it, they can shut it down or change the terms, and they more than likely will…

Most of it Steve, is basic parts remove and replace. A Chiltons manual provides pretty decent how to and key tricks.
Up to the years 1984, before the iron head Vortec engine was introduced, all they way back to the 50’s, the generations of Chevy trucks have excellent part commonality. That is a very nice feature about GM pickups, it is also reflected in the considerable part costs in the aftermarket business. They just made millions of Chevy’s that used the same alternators, brakes, steering and suspension, electrical etc, and most that is different can be easily adapted also.
This is unique to the pick ups GM produced.
The more esoteric stuff, its like an Apple computer, you can not make bad mistakes messing with those things.
What the trick really is, its actually in some ways difficult to wrap your noodle around, is changing your thinking, add to that, Chevy’s are totally rebuildable, not throw away like most cars are, i think thats mostly because pickups just simplky need to be rugged, and its a very competitive market for the makers, so they build trucks that are just far easier to fix or modify. Kind of like Fords, Crown Vic police interceptors, the same basic super reliable beefy drivetrain suspension and engine thru all the years, they used the most reliable basic components.
Far as pickups go, to me the Chevies are all around cheaper and easier to rebuild and maintain, or 70-80’s straight 6 half-ton Fords before they put fuel injection in them, are another, early Dodge’s too, but Chevy’s are the king of all that about keeping an old pick up going.

Another feature is there’s no need for special tools on the Chevy’s, its all box wrench and ratchet set R&R, couple screwdrivers, a hammer, pry bar, maybe a couple drifts, a big crescent adjustable, and some pliers. That should give you the idea how basic the required work is. When you take patience and examine a component for a bit, how to R&R it will become self evident. I think this is a consequence, a positive one, oif GM’s engineering principles for mass production. After 94 that changed a lot and still is evolving. But then , in some ways it seems to be returning at least with the utility pick ups, far as strictly mechanical bits are concerned. Some engineering ideas are just to practical to eliminate.
Really, nothing to it but elbow grease and mindset. Get down under your truck and Git er done, wail away at it.

The whole subscription thing doesn’t make sense in terms of automotive features. I’m not doubting there are people who could be convinced that it’s a good thing.

As you’re rapidly closing on that 18-wheeler slowly pulling into your path “oh goodness did I make the payment for that braking feature?”

Servicing the account good and hard as the great George Carlin said back in 1999-2000 in the EPIC You Are All Diseased.
Encore presentation coming up for morale maintenance.

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