Home Automobile BMW Drops Plan for Heated Seat Subscriptions. But Wait.

BMW Drops Plan for Heated Seat Subscriptions. But Wait.

BMW Drops Plan for Heated Seat Subscriptions. But Wait.


The seats of the 2023 BMW i7BMW buyers will not be asked to pay $18 a month to make the heated seats in their new cars work, after all. But that doesn’t mean the idea of paying subscription fees for car features is going away.

Pieter Nota, BMW board member for sales and marketing, told the U.K.’s Autocar that the company is still exploring subscription fees for car features. “We actually are now focusing with those ‘functions on demand’ on software and service-related products, like driving assistance and parking assistance, which you can add later after purchasing the car.”

But, “What we don’t do anymore – and that is a very well-known example – is offer seat heating by this way. It’s either in or out. We offer it by the factory and you either have it or you don’t have it.”

Wait – Monthly Fees for Heated Seats?

BMW is one of many automakers experimenting with a new car ownership model that would see buyers pay subscription fees to use some parts of their cars.

Most new cars sold today have constant connections to the internet. That opens the possibility of a very different ownership experience.

Today, car shoppers configure their car when they buy it – purchasing some features and declining others. To meet the demand for varied combinations, manufacturers build many different configurations of each model.

But highly networked cars could allow manufacturers to build every available option into every car that leaves the factory, then switch them on and off to meet consumer demand. For instance, an automaker could build every car with 16 audio speakers but allow buyers to activate eight, 12, or all 16 for different fees.

A Wildly Different Future

The move would save manufacturers money through economies of scale. And it would allow buyers to reconfigure their car on the fly, adding and deleting features based on their ability to pay for them and what they needed.

But it could also end the idea of ever paying off your car. Even used car buyers could spend years sending monthly fees to the automaker that built their car to access heated steering wheels, entertainment features, and even electronically limited horsepower.

Fees might be monthly like BMW’s heated seat plan was. They could be annual, like a Mercedes plan that lets electric car owners rent more horsepower. They could even be pay-per-use — Volkswagen executives have mused about releasing self-driving software that charges ticket prices based on destination.

Studies Show Some Shoppers Will Embrace This

BMW’s heated seat plan was poorly received by the market. Studies show that car shoppers are reluctant to pay monthly fees for creature comforts.

But that doesn’t mean the subscription model will end. Studies also show that buyers are more willing to pay for automation and safety features. When given a free trial, many consumers are more willing to embrace a fee.

BMW has learned that lesson. Nota told Autocar, “What we find is software-based services, like downloading a parking assist product, is very well accepted. People know it’s a certain piece of software they can download that costs money. It’s the same as downloading a film or an extra feature on an app. That is accepted, and we do that increasingly successfully.”



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