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Text / Liu Dandan
Source: Shentu (ID: shentucar)
Recently, there have been some baffling krypton gold projects in the automotive market-the payment of vehicle hardware.
Want a smaller turning radius for your car? Yes, as long as you spend money on the active steering angle of your car’s rear wheels, you can increase it. Want heated seats? No problem, as long as you give money, these are trivial things, and you can do it in minutes. However, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that you spend money on a car with these features, it’s that the car already has these features, but you can’t use it without paying for it.
It sounds outrageous, but it’s happening now.
In the past few months, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have successively launched similar hardware payment programs, such as the large-angle rear-wheel steering function of 4998 yuan/year and the seat heating function of 18 dollars/month.
These hardware payments are not the same as the common purchase of self-driving software. Not buying the software has little impact on daily car use, but if you don’t spend money to unlock these hardware functions, the pre-buried hardware will be completely wasted, and this part The cost of hardware is included in the purchase of the car, and the consumer has already paid for it in stealth.
Paying for these seemingly inconspicuous costs is one aspect. More consumers are worried. Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s move is to disassemble basic functions and turn them into value-added services. Paying for the seat heating function today will be possible tomorrow. Pay for more basic features.
Maybe the “brake function is about to expire” joke is too absurd, but now no one knows where the scale of car hardware payment is.
Pay for hardware, and cut rich leeks?
It costs money to install genuine PS software on a computer, and it also costs money to install some programs on some cars, such as assisted driving packages. Such a situation of paying for some invisible and intangible programs is called software payment, which is also a mainstream payment item in the auto market in recent years. However, recently, the paid projects of Mercedes-Benz BMW and other companies are mainly aimed at some visible and tangible hardware configurations.
Mercedes-Benz’s hardware payment program currently only exists on the Mercedes-Benz EQS. As a large electric SUV, Mercedes-Benz EQS has a total of 8 configurations, and the “10° rear wheel active steering” function is standard in the other 7 models, only the entry-level configuration 450+ Pioneer Edition does not. However, the “money capability” can solve this problem. As long as you spend 4,998 yuan/year to purchase the latest upgrade service from Mercedes-Benz, you can upgrade the rear wheel steering angle of the 450+ Pioneer Edition from 4.5° to 10°, which makes it different from other models. Same model.
BMW’s paid program, which currently only exists in overseas markets, is mainly for seat heating services. It costs $18 a month. You can choose to subscribe for one or three years to unlock the seat heating function. Or buy it out for $415, which doesn’t sound like a big difference from a regular option, except that it’s “optional” after the car is in hand.
The hardware payment of new car manufacturers such as Lantu, Weilai, and Jikr is mainly concentrated in the intelligent hardware part.
Taking Lantu as an example, in April this year, Lantu launched the “Lantu FREE 8155 Vehicle Hardware System Upgrade Plan”. Car owners can purchase a smart worry-free package with a limited time price of 4,999 yuan in the official APP.
Weilai’s hardware payment is similar to Lantu, but the price is more expensive (two options of 9600 yuan or 12600 yuan), of course, it contains more hardware, mainly for the old ES8, ES6, EC6.
Jikr’s plan also revolves around the 8155 chip. New and old Jikr 001 users who have already ordered and delivered can upgrade the new generation of Jikr smart cockpit based on the 8155 computing platform for free.
From the point of view of price alone, the most expensive NIO should be the one that has been criticized the most by consumers, but in fact, Mercedes-Benz is the most scolded by everyone, and it was even discussed on the hot search for a time.
Behind this differentiated public opinion trend is actually a problem of consumer demand.
The hardware upgrades provided by Weilai, Lantu and Jikr are based on the fact that the existing hardware is outdated and cannot keep up with the current demand.
The update and iteration speed of intelligent hardware is very fast. Take the NIO 866 model as an example. The earliest product has been on the market for 4 years, and the latest is close to 2 years. The intelligent hardware from a few years ago will naturally have some delayed responses and stuck. The situation is like a mobile phone that needs to be replaced after a few years of use.
In this case, if consumers want to experience a smoother smart cockpit, they can choose to upgrade the hardware. If you feel that the demand for response speed and fluency is not so high, the intelligent hardware on the car itself can continue to play a role in the intelligent cockpit.
To put it simply, the hardware upgrades provided by new car manufacturers are a frugal choice, while Mercedes-Benz and BMW are completely different from these.
Whether it is rear wheel steering or seat heating, it is not a special function, but a very common and mature configuration. However, in Mercedes-Benz and BMW, which cost hundreds of thousands or millions, they can only be used by paying. function. This is like cutting off part of the basic configuration of a car, and then turning it into a paid function, creating new consumer demand out of thin air.
No one can “make money” more than Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and this is more or less reminiscent of the LeTV TV of the year.
Most TV manufacturers sell hardware to consumers, and consumers can choose which movie and TV APP members to download and open. But LeTV TV is different. The slogan of LeTV TV was not to make money by selling hardware, but by selling members—that is, selling TVs at a relatively low cost, but consumers must open a LeTV membership.
Few consumers will know before purchasing that once LeTV membership expires and does not renew, LeTV TV will not be able to watch even the most basic high-definition pictures. This has resulted in a kind of ending. After many years, LeTV members can no longer provide the latest TV series, but you must continue to activate the membership, otherwise, no matter what movie and TV APP you use to play the content, you will not be able to watch the high-definition picture.
Overall, LeTV TV is similar to the charging model of Mercedes-Benz and BMW this time – turning basic functions into paid functions that can only be unlocked by spending money.
How much will the consumer bear?
The logic of all paid unlocking is that the hardware is pre-buried before leaving the factory. Otherwise, if you have to go to the 4S store for disassembly and assembly every time you subscribe, there is no substantial difference from renting hardware in the traditional sense.
However, the factory pre-installed hardware will cause a new problem. Whether it is a high-end or low-end model, all models are equipped with standard hardware, which will undoubtedly push up the production cost of the whole vehicle, which will eventually be included in the price.
So, will consumers overpay for pre-buried hardware?
Let’s do the math.
Let’s first look at the software payment. If you want to subscribe to various types of automatic driving packages to achieve assisted driving functions in the later stage, then the car must have a series of automatic driving hardware configurations such as chips, cameras, and radars in the early stage.
Taking Tesla as an example, the autonomous driving solution of Tesla Model 3 mainly takes the visual route, and the main hardware includes 12 ultrasonic sensors, 8 cameras and 1 millimeter-wave radar.
Among them, ultrasonic sensors are very common in the automotive industry, with a single price of tens of yuan, while millimeter-wave radars are relatively expensive, at around $50 (337 yuan). In terms of cameras, the Tesla Model 3 uses one trinocular camera and seven monocular cameras. Among them, according to System Plus Consulting, the cost of the trinocular camera used in Model 3 is about 65 US dollars (439 yuan). The price of a monocular camera is generally around 150 yuan.
At these prices, Tesla’s self-driving hardware part costs around 2,000 yuan ($300).
However, if you don’t buy Tesla’s “enhanced version of automatic driving assistance function” or “full version of automatic driving assistance function”, these hardware does not mean that it is completely useless. The vehicle and pedestrian dynamics are automatically implemented, such as acceleration and braking.
An automotive engineer from Ideal told Shentu that hardware such as radar and cameras can also be used for low-level autonomous driving. Regardless of whether high-level autonomous driving is considered, products must be installed before leaving the factory.
From this point of view, in software payment, there is no idle problem of pre-buried hardware. However, paying for hardware is not the same.
The heat will not spread along the network cable, that is to say, BMW owners want to realize the seat heating function, at least the heating wire has been installed in the seat before leaving the factory. But if you don’t pay according to BMW’s proposed subscription method, then these pre-buried heating hardware will be wasted forever.
Ale, who used to work in the after-sales department of the Volkswagen 4S store, told Shentu that the cost of heating and refitting a single seat on the market is about 1,500 yuan. The cost of different brands is almost the same, but the cost of working hours is different. If the pre-embedding is done in advance in the factory, there is still room for this cost price to be reduced.
On the whole, the pre-buried hardware requires a certain cost. This part of the cost must be transferred to the consumer. However, compared with the selling price of hundreds of thousands, it is difficult for consumers to perceive whether there is any in these hundreds of thousands. How much is their own waste of money.
Who looks the most ugly?
Like the hardware payment function proposed by Mercedes-Benz and BMW this time, why not make it an option or directly add it to the price, but use a subscription system instead? Just to make a little more money?
Of course not, they may be more to test consumers and find more ways to make money.
In the current car market, in addition to selling cars, many car companies have also made a lot of money by selling software. For example, Tesla, for the whole year of 2021, Tesla’s services and other businesses, including autonomous driving software, will be open for business. Revenue was $3.8 billion. New car companies represented by Wei Xiaoli are also showing this momentum. At present, the price of the full package of Weilai NIO Pilot is 39,000, and the price of Xiaopeng XPilot 3.5 intelligent driving package is 32,000.
However, the software advantages of “Wei Xiaoli” in autonomous driving are currently not available to BBA. You may have seen someone share the experience of using Tesla’s “full self-driving capability”, someone who analyzed Wei Xiaoli’s assisted driving, and people are often willing to pay for such a new technology, but basically you don’t see consumers discussing BBA Is the self-driving software worth buying?
For consumers, “BBAs” represent more of the glory of traditional fuel vehicles, which is completely inconsistent with labels such as “autonomous driving”.
Since software payment doesn’t work, can you take a look at the way of hardware payment?
Now, consumers have given their own answer – do not accept.
“Although I am not a Mercedes-Benz owner, if millions of cars want the rear-wheel steering function with a large angle and need to pay to unlock it later, it is impossible for me to accept it.” A Jian, the owner of Land Rover Range Rover, told Shentu that this is not money or money I just don’t want to get used to these car companies. “It’s like I bought a well-decorated house, but the bedroom door can only be opened 60 degrees. If you want to open 90 degrees, you have to pay more. Isn’t this bullying?”
Similar jokes abound on social platforms, such as “you need to watch a 30-second advertisement before starting the car”, “VIP1 braking intensity is 10%, VIP2 braking intensity is 20%”…
Overnight, the fear of being charged by various mobile phone software seems to be completely copied to the car.
“I think traditional enterprises may need to learn from the Internet when they engage in digitalization. Their understanding of the ‘Freemium’ model, that is, Free (free) + Premium (value-added services), is completely wrong.” Founder, Chairman and CEO of 360 Zhou Hongyi said for the paid services of BMW and Mercedes-Benz that in the Internet world, the “Free model” means that basic capabilities are free, and “value-added” services are charged. The “value-added” here is a voluntary choice for most people, rather than dismantling the necessary basic functions and turning them into value-added services.
To put it simply, it is like the anti-virus function of a computer. The real “Free mode” is free anti-virus. The basic functions are complete and free, and users can get a complete user experience, rather than splitting the anti-virus function and charging for it. Killing small viruses is free, and killing large viruses is free.
However, condemnation at the level of public opinion is condemned. At the legal level, it makes sense for car companies to pay for hardware. “As long as consumers are told in advance which functions are available with the car and which functions require additional payment, it is not suspected of compromising consumers’ right to know and right to choose.” Lawyer Yang Yu told Shentu that the current car companies’ It is difficult to say that such behavior violates laws and regulations.
In general, traditional car companies want to learn from new car manufacturers and develop some new ways to make money, but consumers do not pay. Mercedes-Benz and BMW directly overturned the car in public opinion, and it has become more and more ugly in the eyes of everyone. . It’s like a poor performance brought by an old idol. There are very few people applauding, but many people cheering. Everyone has begun to pursue new trends. Only they are still staying in place, working hard but can’t find it. cause of anger.
*The title picture and the pictures in the text are from the official WeChat accounts of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. At the request of the interviewee, A Lei, A Jian and Yang Yu are pseudonyms in the article.
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