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General Motors charges mandatory $1,500 fee for three years of optional car features

Don't want the services? You'll still have to pay for them, activated or not

Drivers in the US and Canada are in for a bit of sticker shock as General Motors has made three years of its OnStar subscription service mandatory in many new vehicles at a cost of $1,500.

The little-noticed change took place in early June, the Detroit Free Press reported, when new GMC and Buick vehicles being sold in North America had the aforementioned line item added to sticker prices under "options and pricing."

According to a GM spokesperson who spoke to the Free Press, the fee will be charged whether or not the customer activates OnStar Connected Services. When the three years are up, customers have the option to extend the service, but charges will not be applied automatically.

The Register has asked GM for confirmation and additional details, but we've yet to hear back.

OnStar, which is owned by GM, provides a variety of safety services for the automaker and its subsidiaries' vehicles. According to GM, the mandatory OnStar plan provides remote key fob access, unlimited data, vehicle diagnostics, Wi-Fi hotspots, and access to the OnStar Guardian app, which is available for GM and non-GM vehicles.

GM Authority, which first reported the change, provided a table of specific price additions for various Buick and GMC models, which shows the tacked-on fee ranging from $0 in the GMC Hummer EV pickup to $1,675 in the GMC Canyon and Sierra HD. The latter two vehicles have a separate $175 charge for "GMC Connected Service Capability" that GMA didn't associate with other vehicles. GMC Yukon, Yukon XL, and Sierra 1500 buyers will be charged $905; other models retain the $1,500 fee, the table shows.

In our email to GM, The Register asked the automaker to verify the GMA table.

The accelerating creep of à la carte cars

Automakers have been planning to implement subscription services in their vehicles for several years, and chipmakers have been along for the ride, seeing such features as a way to get more money from automotive contracts.

Consumer Reports noted in late 2020 that Audi, BMW, Cadillac (a GM subsidiary), Porsche, and Tesla all had plans to add subscription features for certain services. 

GM's $1,500, three-year "add on" makes headlines for its cost and lack of flexibility, but it's hardly the only real-world example – or the priciest. Tesla, for example, charges $12,000 up front (or $199/month) for access to the Full Self-Driving beta.

BMW also recently introduced an online add-on store for its vehicles in several countries, including Germany and South Korea. BMW's options include enabling heated seats for $18 a month, $8.50 for automated high beam switching, and more. These microtransactions only unlock access to capabilities already present in the vehicle.

The Register has tried getting reactions from GM dealerships, but have been unable to find someone willing to comment. Speaking to the Free Press, Sam Slaughter, the owner of Sellers Buick GMC in Farmington, MI, said customers haven't pushed back much on the change, but he expressed dissatisfaction that GM labeled its now-standard OnStar add-on as an option.

"I don't know why they did that, they should have just put that in the MSRP. We've had a couple people say, 'I don't want this.' But it's a forced option," Slaughter said. ®

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