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Tesla is proposing a $199 monthly subscription for its assisted-driving system. Photo: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Car technology is changing fast — and getting more expensive. But a more affordable alternative for some buyers is subscribing only to the car features they want.

Why it matters: Automakers drool over the prospect of collecting recurring revenue from car owners, even as they roll out regular software improvements. And people who lease their vehicles, or trade them in frequently, could avoid spending thousands of dollars on cutting-edge tech they only get to use for a few years.

  • "If you can get somebody hooked on a subscription, then it's like Netflix," said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights. "You tend to keep paying for it whether you use the feature or not."

Driving the news: Tesla said recently it would let customers subscribe to its "Full Self-Driving" advanced driver assistance package for $199 a month, rather than paying $10,000 upfront.

The big picture: Subscription services dominate almost everything we consume today, whether it's video streaming, software or even meal kits. It's only a matter of time before mobility becomes a subscription service, too.

  • Automakers including Porsche, Volvo and GM's Cadillac brand have tried vehicle subscription schemes, with mixed success.

What's different now is that carmakers are offering subscriptions to individual features.

  • Mercedes-Benz will reportedly offer rear-wheel steering on its upcoming EQS electric sedan as a $575 annual subscription in Germany, writes The Drive.
  • BMW, which backed off a plan to charge $80 a year for Apple CarPlay, still enables certain features like heated seats and steering wheels to be unlocked via subscription fees.
  • Cadillac charges drivers $25 per month for its Super Cruise hands-free driving system after the three-year free trial expires.

What to watch: It all comes down to pricing. A survey by the automotive website Autolist found that most people were willing to pay just $11 to $25 a month for subscription features.

What they're saying: "Any given price is going to be wrong, so we'll just adjust it over time as we see the value proposition makes sense to people," Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors this week.

  • "We need to make Full Self-Driving work in order for it to be a compelling value proposition. Otherwise, people are betting on the future."

My thought bubble: Musk's statement says as much about the state of Tesla's automated driving system as it does about the future of subscriptions.

Go deeper

Exclusive: Grassroots group raises concerns over Tesla hirings

The Tesla Inc. factory under construction on Harold Green Road and State Highway 130 in Austin on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Photo: Bronte Wittpenn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One grassroots group has raised concerns with Tesla leadership over hiring practices at the company's new Austin gigafactory, urging the car manufacturer to improve opportunities for residents who only speak Spanish.

The big picture: Tesla, which recently announced it will move its headquarters to Austin, will employ at least 5,000 workers at the new plant.

  • The hiring process has already begun, and many of the jobs at the plant require only a high school education. CEO Elon Musk said he doesn't care "if you even graduated high school" to get a job at Tesla.
  • The company listed 364 Austin-based jobs on its website Tuesday.
Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Technology

Facebook's scandals have been great for shareholders

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios

Facebook has been embroiled in scandal for the past five years, and while the specific allegations change over time, a central theme is constant. Given the choice between commercial and moral imperatives, Facebook always seems to choose the option that is best for the share price.

Why it matters: Facebook's stock chart supports that narrative. Since the 2016 scandals alleging that the social network was infiltrated by foreign actors trying to influence the outcome of democratic elections, Facebook's revenues — and its stock — have been soaring.

Biden to tap telecom trio for NTIA, FCC posts

Jessica Rosenworcel. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to name Alan Davidson as head of the telecom arm of the Commerce Department, Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner at the FCC, according to a person familiar with the process.

Why it matters: Internet availability and affordability has been a key policy priority for the White House, but the administration lagged in tapping people for the agency posts that oversee the issues.

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