Per the New York Post, subscription plans recently rolled out in the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, and several other markets, which included fees for premium features. BMW owners will be forced to pay the equivalent of $18 per month to use heated front seats in their cars.
Owners also have the option to pay $180 per year to use their heated seats, or can opt to spend $300 for a three-year subscription, or $415 for “unlimited access,” the publication reported.
It’s unclear whether subscriptions will be required in the United States at a future date.
“Front Seat heating gets things nice and cosy in no time,” BMW’s UK site says. “Activation after purchase is quick and easy.”
Heated seats aren’t the only premium feature with an upcharge. In some markets, owners will pay $12 per month to use their heated steering wheels. It’ll cost $42 per month for adaptive cruise control. The feature that switches off high beams automatically when another car appears also costs $12 monthly.
Anyone who wants to connect their iPhones to their cars through Apple’s CarPlay feature will be charged $265.
Reactions on social media were swift and brutal.
“This is wild — BMW is now selling a monthly subscription service for heated seats in your car. Monthly fee: $18, Annual fee: $180,” one person shared. “The car will come with all the necessary components, but payment is needed to remove a software block. Welcome to microtransaction hell.”
“Can’t say enough about how insane and dystopian this is,” another person agreed. “It’s not a subscription for heated seats. It’s a subscription to disable the software that BMW has installed to prevent you from using the heated seats, which are of course already built in.”
There’s a good chance that other luxury brands will follow suit. During an interview with The Verge, Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källeniu said they’ll likely be offering subscription-based upgrades in their vehicles as well.
“I think you need to offer customers both. Some customers don’t look at the price, they just want the best, most desirable product. ‘Whatever it costs, just let me pay now and that’s it,’” he said.
“You have to have that option, but I think you can add functionality as you go along. You let people choose what they want through the app store…That is true digital, recurring revenue,” he continued, comparing these offerings to cell phone companies that offer upgrades for a fee.
“It is not about just selling your 2.5 million vehicles or whatever a year,” the CEO continued. “Your install base should grow and grow, so that one day you have tens of millions of vehicles. Then if you start monetizing some per month in that install base, the lever actually starts looking quite attractive. I think we are onto something here. It is too early to say how much this economic potential is, but it is there.”