Are Subscription Optional Extras The Future?

Thu 21st Jul 2022

The UK public is more than accustomed to paying a monthly subscription fee for a range of services, whether that be the digital doorbell, music streaming services or a season ticket to the local football club. But would you pay a monthly fee to have a heated seat in your motor?

German manufacturer BMW has attracted some fairly negative headlines this month after it was announced that cars are being manufactured with a range of extras such as heated seats and steering wheels, premium headlight systems and adaptive cruise control - but the only way to use them will be to sign-up to a monthly subscription.

Most car buyers are used to paying extra premiums for some of the optional extras, knowing that if they don’t pay the fee up front then their car will come without the technology. But in an effort to reduce manufacturing times on vehicles, it appears that BMW are now prepared to build this tech into all their vehicles, and block the use of it using software, unless for example you pay £15 a month to have a heated seat.

BMW’s Operating System 7, which was launched in 2020, allows over-the-air software upgrades to allow users to turn on and off the extras. So it might be useful to have a heated seat during the winter months, but not in the middle of summer. To turn the extras on, the built in wi-fi can delete a line of code which had previously blocked access.

“Digital technologies belong to the core of BMW – because hardware and software are of equal importance for premium cars,” said BMW Chairman Oliver Zipse when the system was launched in 2020.

“Our mission is to integrate advanced digital technologies with highest product excellence to enhance our customers’ experience and driving pleasure even more.”

While many have seen the subscriptions as an additional tax on owning a car, for features which are already built into the vehicle, the company have said that access to these technologies, even on a short-term basis could allow buyers the option of trialling services before making a decision to buy.

“The connected drive store offers customers the opportunity to add selected features, which they did not order when the vehicle was built, at a later date,” a BMW spokesman told the Daily Mail.

“This can be helpful for new customers should their circumstances change after their purchase. 

“For secondary owners, this functionality is particularly useful, as they now have the opportunity to add features the original owner did not choose.   

“Customers can enable all hardware features for a one-time payment or if preferable, choose an annual or monthly subscription, depending on the feature. 

“This enables drivers to experiment with a feature by purchasing a short-term trial before committing to a purchase.”