Last year, the chip shortage forced BMW to build a number of cars without touchscreens, which obviously frustrated customers. Now, guess what? the company has decided to make certain basic features available through a subscription in select countries.
Heated steering wheels and heated seats are two examples. Even though the vehicles have the necessary hardware, owners won’t be able to use them unless they pay the required monthly fees.
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Various media outlets have spotted these optional features on BMW websites in Germany, the U.K., South Africa, South Korea and New Zealand.
As Business Insider reports, heated seats cost the equivalent of CA$23 per month, with additional options for 1-year, 3-year and unlimited terms. A heated steering wheel will relieve customers of about CA$13-$15 per month.
Other, more sophisticated features are also available via a subscription including automatic high-beam headlights (CA$15/month) and adaptive cruise control with lane centering (CA$55/month).
BMW has not made any official announcement nor responded to questions about its new business model in those aforementioned markets. We can confirm that Canada is spared for the moment.
As you probably know, vehicles keep getting more and more expensive to build and automakers need to find new revenue streams, both at the time of sale and in the years after. With all the electronic systems and connected features that can now be updated remotely, it’s easy for them to maintain some control and force a customer’s hand.
Of course, highly advanced technologies and assistance services are one thing, but typically standard amenities like heated steering wheels and heated seats? In a premium car? That’s pretty hard to swallow.
South of the border, BMW once thought about charging US$80 per month for Apple CarPlay, but the plan was dropped following consumer backlash.
It’s almost inevitable that certain vehicle functions and services will end up requiring a monthly or yearly subscription going forward. We’re just wondering which ones drivers will actually be willing to pay for.