Pretend for a second that you’ve just purchased a brand-new BMW 5 Series. You’re driving around in your luxury automobile one cool morning when you decide to turn on the heated seats, and nothing happens. There is no heat for your freezing behind. This may happen. In several regions, BMW now offers heated seats and other standard amenities for a monthly fee. If the owner doesn’t pay, they can’t use it, even if their vehicle comes equipped with the factory. Automobile manufacturers are making the change as part of an effort to monetize the data collected by their cars’ software. Automakers hope to earn a consistent cash stream (tens of billions of dollars per year, some suggest) through subscriptions and other means long after a car has been manufactured and sold.
This week, several auto blogs reported that BMW’s South Korean website suddenly began offering monthly memberships for heated seats and a heated steering wheel. BMW owners in Germany, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and New Zealand will soon have access to the capabilities above, as noted by The Verge.
In some regions, BMW’s heated seat subscription service now costs $18 monthly:
• You may choose between a 1-year, 3-year, or unlimited heated seats bmw subscription for about $18 per month. Your monthly cost for a heated steering wheel will be around $10 to $12. Additional BMW subscription options include automatic high-beam headlights ($12/month) and adaptive cruise control with lane centering ($42/month). BMW did not respond when the subscription service was made available.
• Vehicles now incorporate more electronics and connectivity than ever before. This means that features can be added, unlocked, or updated in automobiles remotely, allowing automakers to keep vehicles up-to-date and relevant for longer possibly. However, they might demand very high fees from property owners.
• For an additional fee, Lexus, Toyota, and Subaru owners can lock and start their vehicles from afar using a smartphone app. Some Cadillacs and Chevrolets provide a hands-free driving function called Super Cruise for $25 monthly. Tesla, the company that popularized over-the-air software upgrades for automobiles, charges $199 monthly for its most sophisticated driver assistance system.
• Customers have spoken out against the trend. In the United States, BMW had planned to charge $80 a month for Apple CarPlay, but after receiving negative feedback, they scrapped the idea. Experts say automakers may take time to determine what features buyers can pay extra for.
BMW’s Heated Seats: The Reason
• BMW now provides heated seats as a monthly subscription option for British drivers. You can still obtain heated seats the traditional way—by opting for them when you buy the car—but if you didn’t or if you acquired a used car without the function, BMW will enable it for a monthly subscription so you may experience the luxury of a toasty seat on a chilly day.
• In the US, subscribers can already access other features. BMW owners in North America can have a feature called “remote start,” which allows them to crank the engine from afar before getting in. For an additional fee, you may activate a “BMW Drive Recorder” feature, which acts like a dashboard camera by recording footage from the car’s exterior cameras (the ones used for features like lane-keeping assistance).
• BMW Functions on Demand refers to services that can be added to your vehicle and purchased from the BMW Connected Drive Store.
• Of course, automakers have always charged more for pricier models with more upscale features, but the playing field changes dramatically when software, not hardware, is the bottleneck.
• For example, BMWs have all the hardware to provide heated seats, but the company has disabled this feature via software, requiring the buyer to pay to unlock it. It is sensible to charge a subscription fee for software options that could result in recurring costs for the automaker (such as automated traffic camera warnings). That, however, is fine when it comes to heated seats.
• BMW notes that “the hardware for this feature has already been installed in your vehicle during production at no additional cost.” This statement refers to the second option. The generosity is simply incredible.
Added functionality for a car already paid for at the time of purchase cannot be obtained through a subscription service. Simply put, this is an option for BMW owners, and possibly subsequent BMW owners, to experiment with functions that were not “turned on” at the time of the vehicle’s original purchase.
Subscription services for automotive features are not exclusive to BMW. Tesla has used software to artificially limit the battery range of its lower-end models for years, sometimes unlocking longer content in certain situations, andA remote start option that is accessed through an app comes with a monthly cost from Subaru. There has been discussion amongst automakers about adding membership costs for access to perpetually updated features like ADAS and navigation.