BMW starts charging subscription fees (in some countries) to use already installed hardware
You thought microtransactions were just about getting people to pay to play games. Think again.
Technically this is nothing new and goes back to when GM thought it would make a lot of money from subscription fees for this new OnStar Concierge service, and I’m guessing a lot of car consumers are paying already costs to use the equipment already installed. in their cars and paid when using satellite radio but the news that BMW is now charging a subscription fee to use components more associated with standard, non-digital options bothers me, and I’m not the only one .
The article that captured the most attention from a wide range of critics, ranging from right-to-repair advocate Louis Rossmann, owner of an independent Apple repair shop, to the wall street journal are the $18 per month charge for using your front heated seats, though a range of options are on the subscription menu. r/BMW on Reddit is buzzing with criticism, although some scoff at the news, saying it’s no big deal because BMW doesn’t make it in the US.
According to WSJ the program is already active in South Africa, Germany, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, where it will cost you the equivalent of $15, $17, $18 and $30 respectively to use your heated seats according to BMW websites in these countries. Consumers have the choice of monthly, annual, three-year, and unlimited service plans. For those who aren’t sure whether to take the plunge, it looks like the Quandt family are generously letting you use them for free for a trial period. It has been reported that BMW has a similar subscription service in Korea.
Being able to automatically dim your high beams will cost you around $12 a month in the UK. In 1952, Cadillac may have charged you the substantial sum of $53.36 (~$600 in rapidly depreciating 2022 dollars) to have your Caddy fitted with GM’s Autronic Eye dimmer system, but it didn’t. no extra charge for using it.
The truth is that almost everything on a modern car is computer controlled. That switch on your door to lower or raise the window doesn’t directly connect 12 volts to a motor, it triggers a logic circuit that controls a micro solenoid. Since almost every system in your car is connected to the ECU, it’s not impossible to think that each of these systems can be turned into a subscription fee, no matter how bad you think they are. fundamental to the operation of an automobile.
Think of it as a modern, gluttonous take on what Honda did with the first Accords sold in the United States. At a time when automakers and national dealerships were charging for options à la carte, Honda started building every car with air conditioning and a stereo. Putting these options in every car cushioned the cost so low they could afford to do it. Now, if subscription revenue is high enough, BMW can load every car with just about every option, lower their cost per option, and reap the full retail value, and then some if people want to use those options. Although you can argue with the dealer about the price of buying a car with non-subscription options that you actually buy, BMW isn’t going to discount a popular subscription service.
I’m allergic to conspiracy theories, but I’m beginning to suspect there might be something to this “You won’t own anything and you’ll be happy!” same.
I’m sure you have your own opinions on the matter, please share them below.
[Image: BMW U.K.]
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