Could downloadable applications ultimately replace factory-installed options? According to Peter Schwarzenbauer, Audi's (sales and marketing chief), it's completely possible - and it could be rolled out into Audi products by the end of the decade.
Instead of forcing the customer to select and pay for options when ordering a car, Schwarzenbauer envisions a point where customers could simply pay for and download an "application" that unlocks or modifies various features within the car. For instance, he told Autocar that buyers could potentially activate heated seats, performance tuning, and enhanced navigation capabilities in such a manner.
This revolution will largely be possible thanks to the implementation of in-car Internet connectivity -- similar to that installed in the 2011 A8 sedan -- across Audi's lineup. Although it would be a little more expensive for Audi to install the necessary hardware (i.e. seat heaters) at the factory, simplifying the model mix could help offset the price premium. Further, dealers could potentially provide customers with a car that's built to their tastes in a matter of minutes by unlocking or removing various features/applications. In contrast, an Audi built to order takes roughly 12 weeks to deliver.
We see a lot of potential in such a system -- although we wonder how Audi plans on keeping enterprising computer programmers from hacking their way into the system and unlocking features for free. What do you say -- does this sound like an innovative way to order your next car, or simply a technological flight of fancy?