Updated Dec 9, 2021 - Technology

Software updates could boost your car's resale value

Illustration of a car with a "$" notification as if it was an app.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Today's cars typically lose value as soon as they leave the dealership. But with regular software updates, it's possible your next car might keep more of its value over time.

The big picture: A new generation of digital-age car buyers wants to update their vehicles as seamlessly as their smartphones, adding features and services that weren't available at the time of purchase.

Why it matters: Automakers see huge revenue gains from connected-car services that improve the in-car experience while building customer loyalty and driving up resale values.

  • "It's all about keeping that experience lively and exciting," said Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis (parent of Jeep, Ram, Peugeot and other brands).
  • "If the customer journey is more enjoyable, you’re going to use it more intensively."

Tesla has already proven this works, building devotion among Tesla owners with over-the-air updates that extend their cars' battery life, boost performance or introduce new Autopilot features.

  • "Tesla customers love their Tesla vehicles and community," notes consulting firm BCG.
  • And Tesla vehicles generally have higher resale values than other models, for many reasons.

That's just the beginning of the software-defined dream car, however. It's also about personalization.

  • Unlike their boomer parents or grandparents, who customized their ride with souped-up engines and aftermarket accessories, younger buyers seek to personalize their cars with individual apps and conveniences.

Some premium car owners can already pre-set their music and climate preferences before they enter the vehicle — or change the mood on demand.

  • And families can sync their Amazon Prime account with their 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer so they can pause streaming content in their home and resume watching in the car.
  • Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler owners will be able to share trail maps and video footage of their adventures with other off-road enthusiasts.

What's next: With artificial intelligence and augmented reality technology, cars will automatically tailor the experience to suit passengers' preferences.

Stellantis provided a tantalizing view of the future for its French luxury brand, DS, during a video presentation to investors and journalists this week.

  • In this scenario, the windows turn into screens along the journey, highlighting points of interest, restaurants and hotels.
  • In the back seat, a child plays video games on the rear passenger window, while directional speakers ensure the noise doesn't disturb the parents' playlist up front.
  • At night, passengers gaze up to see the constellations labeled on the car's glass roof.

What we're watching: It all seems cool, but will people pay for such experiences?

  • High-tech features have already driven up vehicles prices, yet many people don't even use them.
Go deeper