Audi considers subscription service, plans over-the-air updating system

2019 Audi A7 Sportback
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

For German automaker Audi, the future doesn’t stop at bringing a range of electric and hybrid cars to the market. The company also has plans to become more tech-oriented in the coming years. To get there, it’s taking a holistic approach to electrification that its gasoline-powered models will benefit from as well.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz, two of Audi’s fiercest rivals, recently announced pilot programs to independently test Netflix-like subscription services in America. Many companies see the pay-as-you-go business model, which is relatively new in the car world, as a potential growth area. Audi isn’t likely to let its cross-country competitors walk away with a slice of the pie without a fight.

“A subscription service is something that is being looked at in general. It may or may not be tied to an electric car. But it’s an interesting aspect of the business many are announcing, and we look at it as a new area of business. I don’t have a specific, concrete announcement at this point, but I wouldn’t say it would only be relevant to an electric car,” Filip Brabec, Audi’s vice president of product management, told Digital Trends.

If given the green light, Audi’s subscription service could follow one of two paths. It could let motorists subscribe to a car for a flat monthly fee that includes insurance and maintenance, similar to Volvo’s Care by Volvo program. It could also allow drivers to purchase access to a fleet of Audi vehicles and change cars every day if they feel like it. Mercedes-Benz and BMW both followed this second route.

The electric e-tron quattro Audi will introduce before the end of the year will be compatible with an over-the-air software updating system that will be new to the brand. Owners will receive software updates (i.e., a new version of the infotainment system) wirelessly. The firm has previously hinted that e-tron drivers will also be able to purchase features through the over-the-air system. They might be able to unlock more driving range, for example, either permanently or temporarily. This system will also trickle down to most members of the company’s family.

“We will be looking [at the over-the-air updating system] for a number of cars. I think there is some future to this. There needs to be a clear offering logic to the customer, and we think we have a pretty good concept with which we want to move forward. I would say it’s not just for electric cars. This will definitely be relevant to other vehicles. It makes sense to do certain updates over the air for cars with an internal combustion engine, too,” Brabec said.

Audi will announce further details in the coming months. We expect to hear big news when the second annual Audi Summit opens its doors in Brussels in August.

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