Car manufacturers are starting to cash in on subscription services by charging for some of their features. BMW’s temporary Apple CarPlay subscription was the first. Then Mercedes required a fee if drivers wanted to access their EQS rear-wheel steering functionality in Europe. And Audi’s navigation function also comes at a monthly fee. Now Toyota is taking things to the next level.
The Japanese automotive giant is testing the waters by making their key fob’s remote start functionality part of a larger services subscription. This means car buyers will have the option of using the trial version of Toyota’s Connected Services. These include features like emergency assistance, hotspot connectivity, and app-based services like remote vehicle locking and starting.
According to The Drive, the trial period depends on the car in question, as well the audio package included with the vehicle. Toyota’s remote start key fob functionality currently requires a paid $8 per month subscription service. But this only applies to cars manufactured in 2018 and later. The required fee was revealed as free trials of Toyota’s Remote Connect subscription started to expire.
Unless Toyota owners read the fine print, they may not have known the key fob method was part of the Remote Connect subscription. Unfortunately, things get a little more complicated. Most buyers get a free three-year or 10-year Remote Connect trial depending on whether they chose Audio Plus or Premium Audio trim options. So for the first three years of ownership, the remote key fob start method would have worked without a problem, until it didn’t (via Engadget).
The issue was first spotted by CoPilot who reported that Toyota owners were particularly irked about the key fob being linked to Toyota’s Remote Connect – especially since it doesn’t require an app to work. Adding insult to injury is that the limitation doesn’t apply to pre-2018 vehicles. This is because Toyota didn’t want to update them from 3G to LTE networks.
It might seem like a problem that can be avoided if you just opt out of all Toyota’s subscriptions. But why would anyone do that when these functions make life so much easier. The remote start system allows users to turn on the ignition in their vehicle from the outside. This means the car can even be locked and turned off in the driveway and the remote start will get the engine running and ready to go.
There’s nothing wrong with manufacturers like Toyota creating subscription services for fancy features. But how many people would be willing to pay a monthly fee for something the company doesn’t actually provide. Interestingly, Toyota doesn’t play a role in the communication between the key fob and the car.
Keyless remotes use a short-range radio transmitter to work. It just needs to be within a certain range of the vehicle (usually between five and 20 meters). So customers aren’t paying $8 to provide Remote Start. They’re paying them a gatekeeping fee to gain access to a vehicle they already own. Unfortunately, Toyota isn’t the first car manufacturer to charge extra for key features. And they probably won’t be the last.