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Poll: Do car companies charging annual CarPlay subscription harm their brand image?

BMW made a controversial move last year, implementing an annual CarPlay subscription. Instead of a one-off option payment of $300, it made CarPlay a free option in the first year, but then charged $80/year to keep it active.

It’s now reported that a second car manufacturer may be following BMW’s example …

Motor1 this week suggested that Toyota might opt for the same approach with the new Supra.

There might be a similar charge for retaining the functionality in the 2020 Toyota Supra, since its infotainment tech has a close relationship with German brand’s iDrive system. Senior Editor Jeff Perez is currently at an automaker event driving the new Supra. He asked Jarrod Marini, Customer Care Senior Analyst (Connected Technologies) at Toyota North America, whether there would be an annual charge to continue using CarPlay like for BMWs. “We haven’t decided yet,” Marini said.

Toyota North America spokesperson Nancy Hubbell provided further clarification to She said that Marini’s statement is accurate and “discussions are ongoing.”

BMW claimed at the time that the annual subscription for CarPlay was good for customers as many lease a car for three years before upgrading to a new one. With the first year free, they would pay $160 instead of $300.

Not everyone was convinced, however, and the company did respond to customer kickback by reinstating the $300 option as an alternative, albeit getting you 20 years’ use rather than a lifetime payment.

Given the overall running cost of a new car, it seems unlikely that many would let a small annual subscription for CarPlay influence their choice of brand, but that kind of nickel-and-diming does seem to have the potential to damage a car company’s brand image. Zac Hall last year likened the practice to charging for seatbelts.

CarPlay effectively limits distractions in the car by silencing unnecessary alerts like email while making messaging work with voice over Siri. BMW should be embracing that in the interest of protecting drivers and discouraging distracted driving, not discouraging drivers from discovering and continuing to use CarPlay with a goofy subscription fee.

What’s your view? Would it ever influence your choice of car? And, if not, would it make you feel differently about the brand? Or would you refuse to pay it and install one of the many aftermarket CarPlay units now available? Please take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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