If you don’t want to pay for car subscriptions every month, no problem: just pay for everything in advance. That’s General Motors’ line today after word spread that it’s making a $1,500 three-year subscription to OnStar-connected services a mandatory “option” on new Buick, GMC and Cadillac Escalades -models makes. The subscription, which enables things like using your phone as a keychain, data-enabled navigation, audio streaming, and Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, is still optional on other GM vehicles, with the premium package costing $49.99 per month. But don’t be surprised if this new setup spreads across the automaker’s portfolio.
Although drawing attention today after a Detroit Free Press report, news of Onstar becoming a mandatory subscription was first reported back by GM Authority on July 5th. The $1,500 OnStar fee will effectively increase the base prices of these cars, although the exact increase will vary by model. All Buicks see a price increase of $1,500. Higher trim GMCs will see a rise of just $905, with the Hummer EV not getting an MSRP boost. GMC’s base-model Sierra and Canyon pickups are the hardest hit with a $1,675 increase. By far the most common price increase is $1,500, which also applies to the Cadillac Escalade, reports Automotive News.
Speaking to GM Authority, a spokesman said that having customers pay for the service “will improve it [their] vehicle ownership experience.” They continued, “By including this plan as standard equipment in the vehicle, it offers greater customer value and a more seamless onboarding experience.” The automaker acknowledged to AN that buyers who do not activate OnStar and have no desire to use the services no discount will be offered.
The way this change was introduced is a fairly classic GM-enforced bug. Dealer premiums aside, new car prices are somewhat insulated from rapid inflation, as they’re usually set in annual increments as each new model year comes out. We are now entering the 2023 launch season and are already seeing some hefty price jumps to account for increased supply chain costs. GM could have raised all those MSRPs, stuck on inflation, and offered a free three-year OnStar subscription to soften the blow.
Instead, it has thrown itself into the melee with this obligatory option nonsense as consumers rant about new-car subscription options. It’s not as bad as trying to pay for things like heated seats, as BMW recently discovered, nor is it as convoluted as Toyota’s plan to turn its key fob remote start feature into a subscription service. But the idea of buyers being forced to pay for something they might not want, which was previously an optional subscription, will undoubtedly cause concern. And the whole thing feels a bit Orwellian when GM insists on still calling it an “option” that’s “offered.”
We reached out to GM to ask if this mandatory subscription model would be headed to Chevrolet and other Cadillacs next, and a spokesman responded by saying the plan is “offered on new Buick, GMC and Cadillac Escalades at this time becomes.”
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