According to Jalopnik (opens in new tab), BMW is trying to bring back subscription features to its cars – so if you want to have heated seats you'll need to sign up for a seat subscription. That's $18 a month or $406 for lifetime access.
That's not all. In South Korea, where BMW is trying this transport tomfoolery, you can have a heated steering wheel for $10 a month; CarPlay for a one-off $304 and high-beam assist headlights for $8 a month.
BMW hasn't announced any formal plans to bring this terrible idea to the UK, US or Europe, but if the South Korean experiment is successful then it's clearly a case of when, not if. And while I understand the thinking I think it's a horrible glimpse of a worrying future.
Stop with the subs already
I'm not against subscriptions; I have tons of the damned things, and most of them are good. But moving cars to a subscription model where you pay a huge amount of money for the car and then more money to enable features in software seems like a very consumer-unfriendly plan. The thinking behind it is obvious – as the world moves to EVs, car makers won't be making money from servicing and repairing the oily bits any more; this is a great way to develop a new revenue stream – but it's trying to ignore an important point here: BMW is pretending that cars are software, not hardware.
This isn't like buying a power-up in a video game or subscribing to an app so it's always being updated. What BMW is trying here to charge you twice for the same hardware: once to buy it, and then again to unlock it. Selling you the same thing twice is a wonderful idea if you're a car company but it's not so great if you're an ordinary driver already living in the middle of a cost of living crisis.
The car blogs are unanimous: this is a terrible idea that car companies are going to try really hard to push. It's easy to joke about charging a subscription for turn signals and other crucial features, but someone somewhere is thinking about enabling Uber-style surge pricing for aircon during heatwaves.