BMW is now selling subscriptions for heated seats in several countries – the latest example of the company’s adoption of micro-transactions for high-end car features.
A monthly subscription to heat your BMW front seats costs about $18, including subscribing for one year ($180), three years ($300) or “unlimited” access for $415. There are payment options.
It’s not clear exactly when or in which countries BMW began offering the feature as a subscription, but this week several outlets reported its launch in South Korea.
BMW has been slowly putting features behind subscriptions from 2020 onwards, and heated seat subscriptions are now available in BMW’s digital stores in countries including the UK, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa. However, this doesn’t appear to be an option in the US yet.
We’ve asked BMW for the exact details of this roll-out, but were unable to say when the subscription was launched in which countries. It should come as no surprise that BMW isn’t trumpeting the news. Since the company announced in 2020 that the operating system of its cars would allow micro-transactions on features such as automatic high beam and adaptive cruise control, customers have called the move greedy and exploitative.
Car manufacturers always charge customers more money for higher-end features, but the dynamic is very different when software rather than hardware is the limiting factor.
In the case of heated seats, for example, BMW owners already have all the necessary components, but BMW has placed a software block on its functionality that buyers will have to pay to remove. For some software features that can cause ongoing expenses for the carmaker (like automatic traffic camera alerts, for example), charging a subscription seems more reasonable. But this is not an issue for heated seats.
Other features that BMW is closing behind subscriptions to (according to the company’s Digital UK store) include heated steering wheels, from $12 a month; Option to record footage from your car’s cameras, priced at $235 for “unlimited” use; and the “IconicSounds Sport Package,” which lets you play engine sounds in your car for a one-time fee of $117.
In the latter case, BMW notes that “the hardware for this feature may have already been installed in your vehicle during production, at no additional cost.” How generous