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BMW’s In-Car Subscriptions Have Arrived in the US

Heated seats are still an up-front option for now, at least.

BMW has caught a lot of flak for its heated seat subscription. That’s only offered abroad, and up to now, BMW had yet to pitch any pay-by-month features in the United States. That just changed. The company now offers several optional extras that use existing hardware in a car to turn on software-enabled features.

To be clear, these features are in line with a previous statement from BMW. The hardware at hand performs one function already, but software enables it to be used in new ways. In other words, there’s nothing like a heated seat subscription happening here. At least not yet.

As Motor Authority reports, the features include a drive recorder, a traffic camera, enhanced assisted driving features, and better automatic parking software. The automaker is charging a fee for remote start, as Toyota did. That being said, all but one of these—the traffic camera—can be paid for upfront for a flat fee. Remote engine start, for instance, is basically a $330 option if a buyer doesn’t want to pay $10 every month.

The optics of this really depends on your own perspective. This could either be the thin end of the wedge for something like heated seat subscriptions or it could be the first batch of many future OTA features that leverage existing hardware in a new way.

BMW Responds to Fury Over Heated Seats Subscription Fee | The Drive
BMW isn’t charging for heated seats in the U.S. yet, but other features may end up costing you. BMW

The most expensive feature, Driving Assistant Plus with Stop & Go, costs $950 upfront or $20 every month. The cheapest feature is the drive recorder at $149, which can’t actually be paid for monthly—only at the rate of $39/year.

As we’ve said before, subscriptions are the future. There’s no getting around them. They’re more acceptable when they enable existing hardware to perform a new feature, but still, it would be nice to just get that for free considering how much a new car costs. As Honda brass have previously stated, though, someone has to pay for a car’s data connection. That’s acceptable. What’s not acceptable is paying for pre-installed hardware to complete the function it’s designed to. Heated seats? Just make them an option. Using a car’s assisted driving cameras as a makeshift dashcam? That’s a different story.

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