BMW Makes Heated Seats an $18/Month Subscription Service—Again
BMW is asking owners in Korea to pay for subscription-based options like heated seats or driver-assistance software.
BMW has toyed with charging monthly subscriptions for certain digital "Connected Drive" options for a few years, testing the waters in different markets with different features. Korea is the latest market for subscription-based options, and customers can now pay monthly for physical options such as heated seats and a heated steering wheel.
As cynical as that might sound, Korean owners aren't forced to pay monthly for heated seats, or any of BMW's other available options, but monthly payments can be made to try those out. Heated seats, for instance, cost ₩24,000 (roughly $18) per month. But you can also pay for a year subscription ($176), a three-year subscription ($283), or you can buy the heated seats permanently ($406).
Some other options available with monthly or yearly subscriptions are a high beam assistant, BMW's Driving Assistance Plus software, a heated steering wheel, and an artificial noise generator to give electric cars like the i4 M50 a sci-fi noise while driving. Those will be available for different fees, and some can be added to a customer's car immediately via computer or smartphone.
There may be other avenues to enable the options, potentially. For something like heated seats, where the function is paywalled by software, I can easily see modders figuring out how to jailbreak the system and unlock the option for free. Volkswagen owners have done similar things to older VWs for more than a decade by using simple OBDII-based tools and laptops to unlock lighting modes and window functions, for instance. More recently, Ford Maverick owners learned they can unlock cruise control on entry-level Mavericks, simply by swapping out the steering wheel buttons and using some software.
So it isn't a stretch to assume BMW enthusiasts will figure out how to do the same thing for heated seats, heated steering wheels, and other options that the car already physically has equipped.
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