The well-known German manufacturer of luxury cars BMW has been “playing” with subscriptions for some time. The case of introducing a CarPlay subscription, which caused a lot of indignation, immediately comes to mind. But this did not stop the company and it went much further. The online store has functions such as BMW Camera Information (warning of cameras on the road), Driving Assistant Plus (assistance systems such as cruise control), High Beam Assistant (adaptive headlights), etc.
Now the company has gone even further and offers a subscription for such seemingly basic features as heated seats and a steering wheel. That is, the car already has the necessary equipment, but the opportunity to use it becomes available only after signing up for a subscription to them, as if it were Netflix or Spotify.
There is currently no exact list of countries where such an approach is being implemented, and the company is reluctant to comment on it. You can already subscribe to “climate services” in Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand, and South Africa. Heated front seats will cost $18/month, $180/year, three-year access will cost $300, and “unlimited” will cost $415. You have to pay $12/month for steering wheel heating.
For sure, various additional features always had to be paid for. But in the traditional sense, this had to be done when ordering the configuration, when all the options needed by the buyer were installed in the car. Here the case is a little different because the car already has everything, but it is blocked by the software.
Of course, BMW isn’t the only company making similar offers. For example, the autopilot function in Tesla electric cars is also offered by subscription. Of course, the driver can pay more for permanent access. But when the car already has some features that are not allowed to be used, it does not feel the same as getting “add-ons” when ordering or retrofitting the car already after purchase.
Currently, car enthusiasts can only hope that such a practice will not linger in this industry.