In select countries, BMW now charges a monthly fee to enable basic vehicle features. Customers who want to use their heated seats, for example, need to pony up $18 a month. It’s one of the grubbiest micro-transaction schemes we’ve ever heard of.
As spotted by The Drive, BMW launched a variety of paywalled features in the UK, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and South Korea within the last few months. Some of these subscription-only features are understandable—like a music service and a “noise generator” that makes your engine sound like a UFO.
But BMW also charges customers for heated seats ($18 a month), adaptive cruise control ($38 a month), and high-beam assist ($12 a month). These features are already built into BMW’s vehicles, and they’ve come standard in high-end vehicles (and some budget cars) for over twenty years.
Customers who want to skip the monthly fee can pay BMW several hundred dollars to unlock these basic features. A lifetime of seat heating (for one vehicle) costs $406.
Now, as Ars Technica explains, this process could simplify things for BMW. Customers can pay for a lifetime of seat heating when they purchase their car, or simply enable the feature at a later date. But that’s a stupid excuse—BMW isn’t doing you a favor here; it’s charging extra for something that it already paid to install in the car.
Customers should also be concerned about the long-term functionality of their vehicles. While BMW probably won’t go out of business in our lifetime (companies that are “too big to fail” get bailouts, and all that), there’s no guarantee that BMW will continue to support these paywalled features in 10 or 20 years. Will you need to hack your 2022 BMW to get its seat heater working 20 years from now?
This isn’t the first time that BMW has flirted with BS micro-transactions, by the way. The company previously debuted a yearly subscription for Apple CarPlay, the infotainment software that’s built into its vehicles. (It gave up on the CarPlay subscription for reasons that should be obvious.)
BMW says that it doesn’t plan on bringing these features to the United States. But the prospect of turning cars into endless money-printing machines is too profitable to ignore. I’d be surprised if BMW doesn’t bring this crap to the United States, and I expect other carmakers to follow suit.
Source: The Drive