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BMW: New Subscription Fees for Heated Seats Won’t Impact U.S.

bmw-ix-2022-08-cockpit-shot-interior-leather-wide.jpg 2022 BMW iX | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

Subscription services like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime have become household staples that personalize our entertainment and shopping experience, but they aren’t just limited to our homes, offices and phones anymore — they’re also making their way into new vehicles. Most recently, BMW announced that vehicle owners will have the option to access heated seats via a subscription — but the automaker has clarified that does not apply to its vehicles sold in the U.S., instead saying only certain “premium features” are included.

Related: What’s New With BMW for 2022?

A statement from the automaker said that the subscription-based services currently available in the U.S. are limited to BMW Drive Recorder — a dash-cam function that uses the vehicle’s existing driver-assist cameras — and a remote-start feature. Both are offered through BMW’s ConnectedDrive suite. If a shopper purchases a vehicle with heated seats, it will be included for the lifetime of the car. This diverges from the automaker’s U.K. offering, where shoppers can pay the equivalent of approximately $18 per month, $178 per year or $415 for unlimited access to heated seats.

The statement comes after a previous attempt by the automaker to set up a subscription model: In 2019, BMW asked vehicle owners to pay an $80 annual fee or a $300 fee for 20 years to access Apple CarPlay connectivity, but it pulled back on the decision following customer backlash.

Features You Can Get With a Subscription

cadillac-escalade-super-cruise-2021-oem.jpg Cadillac Escalade Super Cruise | Manufacturer image

The subscription model for vehicle features isn’t a novel concept. Several automakers that offer self-driving capabilities have already employed the strategy: Tesla’s Full Self-Driving suite subscription ranges from $99-$199 per month, depending on the vehicle’s Autopilot package. Ford and GM require subscriptions for BlueCruise and Super Cruise in addition to the extra hardware cost. Porsche has introduced a similar functions-on-demand upgrade for the Taycan, with features like lane-centering steering.

The rates are model-specific and vary in length. Although the subscription model has been largely limited to luxury brands, many mass-market vehicles currently require a subscription for connected services apps to access features like remote start or OnStar after the initial trial expires.

Are Shoppers Willing to Pay?

FordPass app FordPass app | Cars.com photo by Mike Hanley

According to Forbes, shoppers can expect to see the subscription model proliferate among automakers in an attempt to increase revenue, but many say they aren’t ready to sign up. According to the report, 44% of surveyed car shoppers indicated they would rather pay upfront for features, while only 18% preferred the subscription model.

A J.D. Power survey that looked at consumer satisfaction with manufacturer apps supports the sentiment. According to the survey, car owners are wary of paying to subscribe: 90% of respondents currently don’t pay for the vehicle app, 28% say they are willing to pay up to $5, while 58% report they would not be willing to pay at all. The most common reported frustrations included connectivity issues and slow speed.

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