Think you own your own electric car? Sorry, we have bad news for you.
With the electric wave, present and future, many technological innovations are emerging that change our relationship with the car. Among them, the most prominent is certainly autonomous driving, but it is not the only one. Route planners, applications to find charging stations and connect to them are also flourishing. Not to mention the devices that allow you to connect to your car remotely, to control its parameters, to monitor it and to act on certain commands.
But we are talking less about a change that is nevertheless deeper, that is taking place quietly and that is in the process of shuffling the cards completely. This change is the one that consists in us becoming less and less “owner” of our car. It is a gradual development and progresses in small steps, but which concerns all the aspects associated with the fact of “owning” a car.
Changes that are once again made possible by technology, sometimes imposed by economic considerations, but where politics, ecology, notions of security and even “morality” also play their part.
Status of a quiet revolution.
Updates despite us
It has now become common, or at least in the process of becoming, you can update your electric car like your smartphone or your Thermomix recipe list. Tesla has been kicking the ball rolling, not without some talent, for several years, “improving” its cars (sorry, its customers’, revealing slip) by regularly pushing updates that bring new services, new functionalities and even , sometimes a excess power. The other manufacturers do it with more or less success, as this operation seems complex to operate on cars that are not completely designed around this possibility. But this is the trend and we will not go back.
Problem, with IT and connected objects we do what we want. Which means we can too remove thing. While updates most often bring additional features, they can also be synonymous with rolling back, even removing or degrading a feature. This is especially the case with Tesla, which one day had fun reducing the autonomy of certain versions of its Model S in order to preserve battery life. Without informing its customers of course. In 2021, it was the radars integrated in the Teslas that cost a new update that disabled them, making them out of order in the Autopilot functionality for autonomous driving, since, according to the manufacturer, the cameras could only secure the latter in a more effective . Before a reversal that looks like a regression to some, the owners of the models in question are somewhat concerned and that they plan to avoid the update.
Rental of time-limited options
Another trend that accelerates the “disposal” of our cars, the ability to install and activate additional options after purchase. It is smart and probably suitable for certain purposes (for example, renting an air conditioning option only in the summer months). But on the one hand it is not a given, on the other hand it also contributes to this feeling that we are sitting in a car that does not belong to us and that we are ultimately dependent on the goodwill of the manufacturer. This is especially the case with Function as needed or FoD available on the Porsche Taycan, which allows for example 10.72 to 19.50 euros per month depending on the option to add Porsche Intelligent Range Manager or InnoDrive (a kind of automatic pilot) to your car. If you stop paying, the option is removed. So far no problem as it is a conscious choice, but what happens in case of a dispute about a feature or a payment? It will probably happen that subscribers to such options will realize that they do not own their entire car.
Admittedly, this possibility is not yet very widespread at the moment, but one can imagine that it involves gradually more and more functionalities until it becomes possible to shape a car to measure, and especially evolutionary or “de-evolutionary” over time according to to their needs, their mood… and their means.
Mandatory repair at an approved service provider
If a Tesla owner has the misfortune of doing a bit of sheet metal curling, that could be the start of trouble. In addition to a possible shortage of parts, which sometimes induces long wait times, he will also have to undergo the restriction of having his car repaired by an approved Tesla-branded bodybuilder. This has the consequence that you cannot really choose your repairer, but primarily blocks a repair from a non-approved service provider. How is it possible ? Quite simply because modern cars are equipped with several sensors that only authorized repairers have access to in order to deactivate them if necessary. A banal change or smoothing of the rear bumper thus risks becoming very expensive and only possible with a bodybuilder baptized by the brand, as the latter must pay to access Tesla’s various advanced diagnostic systems. Another sign that gives the unpleasant impression that you don’t “own” your car, but that the brand is imposing your choices.
Autonomous or shared self-service cars
The development of technologies, especially in autonomous driving, already makes it possible to free oneself from a driver in certain situations, but also from an owner. The benefits of carpooling will multiply and new consumers who do not need to own a car will travel in cars with or without a driver, rented occasionally according to their needs, as with the Citiz for example. On the driverless car side, Tesla was still leading the way by allowing owners of the Model 3 equipped with the most advanced version of its Autopilot to make it available for rental in autonomous driving mode. According to Elon Musk, this incredible opportunity should come at the end of 2020. We are still waiting and of course only the naive and those who don’t know the concept of “Elon time” believed it.
But if it does happen one day, it will be another cut in the notion of car ownership. And let’s not forget that this is made possible by electric propulsion.
Although Renault’s experience with the Zoé did not last, some manufacturers still offer – or require – the rental of batteries in connection with the sale of their models. This is the case, among other things, for the Vietnamese Vinfast, which expects this pricing to show lower sales prices, with in return the rental of the battery, a guarantee of peace of mind according to it, and long life, in return for charging an amount between 120 and 150 euros per month. It’s another way of not being the full owner of your car.
Finally, more classically in the financial chapter, it will not have escaped you that producers are increasingly trying to “hide” the selling price of their productions in favor of increasingly flashy – and tempting – long-term rental offers. . A way to take the pill by sending attractive monthly payments, because the price structure of LLD can actually seem interesting at first glance and give access to models whose purchase with other means of financing would be difficult to implement. Having said that, there is still a small obstacle that forces manufacturers to show the prices with their electric range, that is the ecological bonus, since to know if a model is justified, you need to know its selling price. In this context, it is difficult to do without this display in a marketing campaign, as it is a central element in the negotiation. However, LLD has the wind in its sails, which unequivocally guarantees that you will never own your car.
The builders alone gentlemen on board?
As we can see, the car – a fortiori electric – is less and less a finished product, and having one in your garage no longer means that we are its owner. A new paradigm that does not only concern the car. If we take a look at certain digital and connected products such as smartphones, and especially those of a certain brand with an apple, we have long understood that it was the manufacturer who dictated his law on what you can do or not do with your telephone, even when this option is not associated with a technical limitation.
A question then arises, i.a. What would happen if a government decided in an authoritarian way to impose a limit on the powers or a limit on the speed of forced installation of an update on the manufacturers? It is technically possible on many cars, and this scenario does not seem so far-fetched when we see how governments have reduced individual and collective freedoms without problems during the Covid crisis. With the energy crisis to help, and under pressure from a few green lobbies, it wouldn’t be more surprising than this idea sprouting in the brain of some publicity-hungry elected official who is only too happy to interpret the little music at the end in its own way.abundance. For our own good, of course, and temporarily, of course.
A vision quite dystopian and still difficult to apply given the differences in the current car fleet, but which would make us realize in a rather brutal way that we are not the owner of our car. And we are less and less likely to be.
Do not show this article to your MP, it may give him ideas. If not today, maybe in fifteen years.