BMW set to offer Netflix-like subscription model for features
Automotive giant BMW is set to revolutionize the way we buy cars and use their features. But some people liken it to “the apocalypse”.
The world of microtransactions is coming to a car near you.
BMW plans to charge monthly subscriptions for certain technology and luxury features in its cars.
Owners will soon be able to purchase access to features such as heated seats or a heated steering wheel through the BMW Connected Drive Shop.
Cars are increasingly connected and many update vehicle software over-the-air in the same way as your smartphone.
It’s these over-the-air updates that allow BMW to turn features on and off so easily.
The car will come with all necessary hardware, but payment is required to remove a software block.
On the Australian version of the BMW Connected Drive Store, it says owners can access a one-month free trial of luxury items like heated steering wheel and front seats.
Otherwise, owners will be charged $29 per month for heated front seats and $19 for a heated steering wheel.
There are some benefits, such as enabling features for a few months in the winter and then disabling them for the warmer months.
Drivers can also choose a three-year annual subscription or purchase the feature for $289, $419 or $589 for heated seats and $169, $259 or $349 for a heated steering wheel.
Customers can also choose to pay $19 per month to activate the BMW Drive Recorder which automatically starts recording if your BMW detects that an accident is occurring. It will automatically store a video clip through the cameras of the driver assistance systems.
Some on social media have described the move as “Welcome to microtransaction hell” and “The apocalypse.”
BMW owners can already upgrade their vehicles with one-time purchases for items like wireless Apple CarPlay for $450.
This feature allows iPhone users to access key features such as calls, maps, messages, music and podcasts through their car’s infotainment screen.
Critics point out that other automakers, including most of BMW’s rivals, offer these features for free.
Connecting your phone with a cord to access CarPlay is free after BMW tried to charge customers several years ago for the feature before quickly backtracking.
Owners can also purchase items such as High Beam Assist which can detect an approaching car and dim the high beams, then turn them back on when the road is clear.
These subscriptions and one-time purchases allow buyers to lower the cost of the initial vehicle purchase and then choose what they want at a later date.
Other automakers will likely follow BMW down the microtransaction path.
Audi and Mercedes-Benz have shown interest in similar online stores.
A Mercedes-Benz software developer told News Corp Australia several years ago that the automaker would allow drivers to “turn features on and off in their cars”, something that will start with software but “can certainly expand in the future to be in the material”.
Audi has already had pay-as-you-go functionality in Europe and has expressed a desire to expand it.
BMW has been criticized in the past for charging customers for standard items on cars sold by competitors such as Lexus.
The brand also has the worst new car warranty of any manufacturer. While the vast majority of manufacturers offer five-year coverage, the brand still only offers three years.