But what these headlines don’t say is that BMW is “only” charging owners month-to-month for luxury services in a few countries, which doesn’t include the US. That isn’t to say the subscription model isn’t important, but if you were dreaming of using your new BMW’s heated seats in the States this coming winter, you needn’t pick up your pitchfork quite yet.
So far, BMW has begun charging monthly for perks in South Korea, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK, according to official BMW web pages first spotted by The Verge. (The South Korean sales page seems to have since been taken down.) Drivers in the UK, for instance, will need to pay the equivalent of nearly $18 USD each month in order to use their vehicles’ heated seats feature. (A year costs about $178, three years $297, and “unlimited” access $415.) Toasty seats aren’t the only subscription-based feature: BMW’s “high beam assistant” (which switches off high beams in the face of oncoming traffic), adaptive suspension, steering wheel heating, and full sound systems are also behind a monthly paywall, despite already existing inside the car.
BMW’s interest in making its vehicles’ most indulgent features subscription-based is odd, considering the old Apple CarPlay incident of 2018. Back then the automaker attempted to charge drivers $80 per year for CarPlay, even as other companies’ far less expensive vehicles included CarPlay for free. This, predictably, elicited the type of confusion and rage that seems to have returned now, four years later. Eventually BMW caved, making CarPlay standard across all of its new vehicles. BMW seems to have forgotten this experience—or heavily relied on the world’s relatively rapid (yet reluctant) embrace of subscription everything.
Considering BMW’s cheapest vehicle is about $36,000 off the lot, it’s understandable that owners are incensed by the automaker’s audacity to charge for pre-installed features, even if the model hasn’t made its way to certain countries yet. After all, if you’re paying for a vehicle with such luxuries as heated seats and a premium sound system, you probably expect to be able to access those luxuries. Did I mention they’re already there?