Am I overwhelmed or is it going too far? I was stunned to learn last week that BMW is offering certain features on its new models by subscription. I read that on the US site Business Insider.
“Innovation” isn’t on offer here for now, and who knows if that ever will be the case.
Still, the owner of a BMW of the year in South Korea has to pay more than $20 a month to use heated seats in his car and $15 more to keep his hands from freezing on the wheel. (I was also surprised to learn that it was cold in this country.)
Pay to unlock
I point out that the cost of buying a car already includes the components that allow the seats and steering wheel to generate heat. Access to functions can be modified via software.
The Stuttgart-based manufacturer has already attempted to charge its customers more than $100 a year for using CarPlay, an Apple application that extends iPhone functionality to the car’s dashboard. He backed away.
In the UK, BMW is charging the equivalent of almost $55 a month to activate the most advanced driver assistance system in some of its vehicles. The manufacturer is pushing new boundaries, a practice that is becoming more common in the industry. Subscription represents a new source of recurring revenue for manufacturers.
Those who drive a Tesla will probably find me naïve to be touched by this, they know the formula. It was Elon Musk’s company that got the ball rolling.
Okay, you have to sign up for a long time to enjoy satellite radio in your cabin. For years, GM vehicle owners have had access to OnStar support for a monthly fee. Even so, subscription fees were still limited to peripheral services that didn’t affect driving or comfort.
Tesla shook up the auto industry with the autonomy of its electric vehicles, but even more so by integrating a key piece of software and an internet connection into its vehicles.
Like a smartphone, a Tesla can receive updates. For example, last year the company was able to add an autopilot feature with a single software mod, accessible for $250 a month (on top of the cost of the car).
Pay to connect
More and more new vehicles are now “networked”. The technology not only allows the manufacturer to modify the on-board software, but also offers the possibility for customers to interact with their car via an application. Thanks to this, the owner can, among other things, unlock the doors with their phone, start the engine remotely, check the fuel level and locate their vehicle from anywhere. To bolster these new abilities, the display features increasingly distracted characters protected from embarrassment (or disaster) by technology.
At the risk of sounding backwards again, I recently learned that app features are being offered for free for a limited time. After 12 or 24 months, the owner must pay a subscription to continue enjoying it.
Most big brands go this route. For example, GM’s Connected Services are available in several more or less expensive versions depending on the number of services, including voice assistant, navigation service and key fob remote controls, among others.
Owners of certain newer Mazda vehicles are offered the Connected Experience free of charge for two years, limited to features accessible through the MyMazda app. The following sentence still has to be determined because it is new.
I didn’t look at all manufacturers. Earlier this year, the magazine consumer report (the equivalent of protect yourself in the United States) warned its readers, saying at least five other car brands are adopting this strategy.
How will it be if you have to pay every month to activate the heating in January?
The subscription really is embedded everywhere…