Image: BMW

Microtransactions are slowly but steadily spreading beyond the realm of gaming and into the world of autos.

The latest evidence of that comes by way of BMW, which has begun selling monthly subscriptions for heated seats for their vehicles in select countries. Owners who want heated front seats will need to pay $18 per month for the apparent luxury, although other payment plans are available, including an annual subscription plan ($180), three-year subscription plan ($300), or an “unlimited” access plan for $415.

Image: BMW

The tactic shouldn’t surprise those who have been following along with BMW’s newer technologies and business initiatives. Back in 2020, the automaker revealed that its new operating system would include support for microtransactions, something that would allow the company to charge for automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and other features.

As The Verge explained in its coverage, this is a controversial business model because owners already own the hardware.

In the case of heated seats, for example, BMW owners already have all the necessary components, but BMW has simply placed a software block on their functionality that buyers then have to pay to remove. For some software features that might lead to ongoing expenses for the carmaker (like automated traffic camera alerts, for example), charging a subscription seems more reasonable. But that’s not an issue for heated seats.

BMW’s heated seat subscriptions have not reached the U.S. yet, but they are available now through BMW’s digital stores in UK, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries.

BMW also sells subscription plans for heated steering wheels (from $12 a month), the ability to record footage from a car’s cameras ($235 for “unlimited” use), and IconicSounds Sport, a feature that lets owners play BMW engine sounds inside the car for a one-time fee of $117.

Source: BMW (via The Verge)

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13 comments

  1. OMFG

    Pay to turn on something in a car - you own.

    Well at least this'll be fixed fast in the US as soon as a congressman/woman has to pay for butt warming a new law will be drafted - I hear DC winters can be a bit cold. :)
  2. The icing on the cake would be if they made it exclusive to the original owner.

    I know I'm not the target demographic but I'd hot wire it to a physical switch day 1.
  3. Much like the vaunted "cars that report speeders or limit your speed to posted speeds" This will be something that if i own a car like this I WILL find a way to disable. Like the other manufacturer wanting to disable remote start unless you pay a fee. Uhhh... no.
  4. That pretty much excludes BMW as a brand I am willing to buy.

    I'm still bitter over my Volvos subscription fee to access it's remote capabilities. If online services can come for free for life in an $8 "smart" lightbulb they better bloody Mary ell be free if included in q $60k car.

    And what's worse, in the last software update it installed nagware to "warn" me that my subscription has expired every time I turn it on.

    It's enough to make me want to burn down Volvo headquarters...
  5. My mind is having a loooot of trouble processing this as real. Has to be some kind of ridiculous joke. And what Zarathustra said about his Volvo, good gawd...
  6. I see this an an ongoing thing as well, but only thing I see from Ford is the navigation being a subscription based option at a certain time. My new F150 has it for three years then it turns into a subscription. I honestly use it very little and see less people asking about it since most people use their phones now for navigation.
  7. Coming to a car near you....

    $18 heated seats
    $15 power windows
    $10 USB chargers
    $25 Car Play / Android Auto
    $10 sun roof
    $15 power door locks
    $20 power seats
    $50 HVAC
    $35 remote start
    $10 automatic headlights
    $10 automatic wipers
  8. I heard Linus (the youtuber) rant about the possibility of this happening, I think it's tesla but not sure who installs these seats in all their cars and if you don't buy the ooption you can't use the heating function. But he did claim they coud then later do what BMW is doing now.
  9. I heard Linus (the youtuber) rant about the possibility of this happening, I think it's tesla but not sure who installs these seats in all their cars and if you don't buy the ooption you can't use the heating function. But he did claim they coud then later do what BMW is doing now.
    There is a difference. It's not uncommon when dealing with what I would call 'big iron' hardware in the server space that you buy a server and get a piece of hardware that is actually FULLY loaded, but your License enables only what you've purchased.

    It's nice at an enterprise level because if a component fails and there is another in the system that isn't use the system auto switches, and auto opens a ticket with the vendor to get the piece of failed hardware replaced. Many times without the IT staff or users ever knowing there was a hardware failure in the first place.

    What's not nice is how much the companies that do this (mostly IBM) charge for those hardware and support contracts.

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