Unfortunately, months later Toyota (or fill in the blank with your favorite manufacture) informs you, through an email that many of these options you thought you bought are actually not yours anymore, they are being held hostage. They say that they will release some of these features or possibly all of them for your enjoyment, if you choose to continue to pay the ransom they require. You scratch your head and wonder, weren't these items listed on the new car sticker? Didn't I already pay for these options? Is this a scam? The answer to both of these questions is Yes. You did pay for them, or are paying for them as you pay your car or lease payments. They were listed as options and it really is a scam in my opinion. Isn't scam too harsh of a word for this? Nope, and I will tell you why.
First, many people were never briefed about this when they purchased the vehicle, so consumers assumed that this standard of non-disappearing options hadn't changed. Secondly, how much do you think that remote start option or heated seats should cost? Should it be an item that you can never pay off? That's when you should know this a scam. So far, apparently a legal scam. Some state officials now have this very issue on their radar, we will see what happens.
Today the dirty little secret of car manufacturers revolves around subscriptions. You probably assumed that the options that you purchased your vehicle with were for the most part included with the purchase price of the vehicle. That's the way it has always been, with the notable exception of satellite radio, which has always been handled as a third party vendor subscription.
I first heard of BMW considering offering subscription options on vehicles, many that we may take for granted, like heated seats and heated steering wheel, or the auto on and off bright headlights that will cease to function without a continued payment or subscription. This apparently is going pretty mainstream now and has trickled down to the plebeian name plates like Toyota, GM, Ford, Stellantis and others. Some auto makers are worse at this fleecing you than others, so buyer beware.
My wife purchased a new Toyota Highlander XLE around a year ago and because she drives it only for work, it has less than five thousand miles currently on the odometer. When purchasing the vehicle she mentioned that the dealership said nothing about disappearing options that would require a subscription to keep. Some of these options are safety features, some are convience, like the remote start.. A couple months back she learned that if she wanted to keep the options that she thought were already paid for, she'd have to shell out a few hundred dollars extra every year!
Vehicle manufacturers are no doubt loving this new system that will bring in billions of extra dollars, long after vehicles are sold and paid for by their new suckers, ahem, I mean new customers.
As for my wife, she is frugal and certainly not going to pay the ransom to Toyota for her previously owned options. Nor would she likely pay mine, if it were demanded. Many other consumers, most who will no doubt spend more time in their vehicles than she, will have to mull over the ransom request.
In the meantime, I am enjoying my well appointed and paid off, 2015 vehicles even more, as they are the kind with options I can keep without the ransom.