Last week, GM announced it was going to phase out the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for all its future electric vehicles (EVs). According to Reuters, GM has been working with Google since 2019 to develop the software foundations for infotainment systems that will be more tightly integrated with other vehicle systems such as GM's Super Cruise driver assistant. The automaker is accelerating a strategy for its EVs to be platforms for digital subscription services. GM is not the only automaker to forgo the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technology; Tesla has never offered them either (and that certainly hasn’t been an issue as far as demand for their vehicles go). GM also won’t be the only carmaker to use Google or Android based operating systems for its infotainment interfaces as Volvo, Kia, Hyundai, Nissan, Audi and many others also use them. However there is a major and dare I say absolutely glaringly obvious difference between the infotainment interface that a company like Tesla offers, and those that are based on Android Automotive (which is not the same thing as Android Auto). Those differences basically come down to design and functionality, aspects of which I will admit are purely subjective. But here’s my point: if GM is going to abandon something that is very popular among the auto buying public, it darn well better replace that with something superior (or at least every bit as good), or buyers are going to revolt, en masse.
Let me be frank: I think that is exactly what is likely to happen. GM is not going to outdo the likes of Tesla, or best the functionality, design and familiarity CarPlay and Android Auto provide by using a flavor of the automotive OS that Google, Intel and others have cooperatively developed. Why do I say that? Because it won’t be designed for their vehicles, it will be generic and bloated (with unnecessary code since it has to be designed to run on a variety of chipsets that each manufacturer uses, chipsets that are nowhere near as performant as Tesla’s is, nevermind the chips running your average two year old smartphone). It better offer all the apps people would otherwise use from their phones in the CarPlay and Android Auto models, but it won’t, at least not initially. GM is just going to alienate huge swaths of its customer base, intentionally, to their own detriment and hope for the best, I guess.
Why is GM even doing this in the first place? As the quote from Reuters pointed out, it is because GM wants to sell its owners subscription services! Do you want heated seats? $4.99 a month is all that GM asks. You want GPS, it’s yours for $7.99 a month (even includes free updates to the maps and live traffic). Want that latest version of GM’s self-driving tech called Super Cruise? $49.99 a month and it’s yours! Only want that for a one drive? They’ll consider that, maybe for just $9.99 per day, but probably not, so just cough up the $49.99… it’s way cheaper than buying Autopilot for your Tesla right? Maybe, it depends on what their real subscription models are (note I made up all those prices and subscriptions, they may be vastly different in reality). GM is certainly not the only carmaker to do this, most of them are planning on some version of subscription based content as a means of collecting new revenue. What is just ridiculous, they all expect to rake in billions of annual profit from these subscription services, eventually.
It seems like GM’s product designers got too addicted to streaming services on their smart TVs during the pandemic. If carmakers think people are going to fork over hundreds to thousands of dollars, per year, for subscription services, they may be in for a harsh lesson. Of course if they force this on the car buying public, and one simply can no longer buy any new car without subscribing to services they might want (unlocking more speakers on your stereo anyone?), we may not have much choice. Or will we? Something tells me that if people avoid these subscription models like the plague and that doesn’t kill their schemes, lawsuits or other legal action might (as many of the features people may be charged subscriptions to use will be for hardware that is already installed in the vehicles they buy). Who knows, maybe I am wrong and GM and the others are going to deliver amazing, must have content and features via their app stores, and buying them will just be too darn easy over our in car sales terminals, er I mean infotainment units.
What do you think? Are GM and other car makers going to have a rude awakening, or is this a brilliant idea? Please leave your comments and questions below.
Images courtesy of Chevrolet.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.