BMW starts selling heated seat subscriptions for $18 a month:In a number of countries, BMW is now offering heated seat subscriptions, the most recent example of the company’s adoption of microtransactions for high-end car features.
The cost of a monthly subscription to heat the front seats of your BMW is approximately $18, and you also have the option to subscribe for a year ($180), three years ($300), or pay $415 for “unlimited” access.
It is unclear exactly when BMW began offering this feature as a subscription or in which countries it did so, but a number of outlets have reported that they have spotted its launch in South Korea this week.
Since the year 2020, BMW has been gradually adding features that are only accessible through subscriptions. Heated seat subscriptions are now available in BMW’s digital stores in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, and South Africa. However, it does not appear to be a possibility in the United States — at least not at this time.
We asked BMW for specific information regarding this roll-out, but the company was unable to tell us when the subscriptions were made available or in which countries they were introduced. However, it should come as no surprise that BMW is not making a big deal out of the news. Customers have decried the move as greedy and exploitative ever since the company announced in 2020 that the operating system of its automobiles would allow for microtransactions on features such as automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. Since then, the company has been selling automobiles.
Naturally, automobile manufacturers have always charged their customers a higher price for high-end features, but the economics of the situation are quite different when software, rather than hardware, is the limiting factor.
In the case of heated seats, for instance, BMW owners already possess all of the necessary components; however, BMW has merely placed a software block on the functionality of their seats, and buyers need to pay to remove the block. It seems more reasonable to charge customers on an ongoing basis for certain software features (like automated traffic camera alerts, for example) that could lead to ongoing costs for the manufacturer of the vehicle. On the other hand, heated seats do not have this problem.
Other features that BMW is locking behind subscriptions (as per the company’s digital UK store) include heated steering wheels, starting at $12 per month; the option to record footage from your car’s cameras, priced at $235 for “unlimited” use; and the “IconicSounds Sport package,” which lets you play engine sounds in your car for a one-time fee of $117. These features can be accessed by going to the company’s digital UK store.
In the latter scenario, BMW informs customers that “the hardware for this feature has already been installed in your vehicle during production, at no additional cost.” How generous.