Technology continues to play an increasingly important role in the daily operation of our vehicles. Some welcome this change. Equipping the car with the latest technology has greatly increased the creature comforts available during the daily commute. For others, adding all this new technology just adds cost and complexity. It becomes one breakable thing and the cost increases even more.
Then there’s the issue of putting the technology you actually need into the car. Want leather seats? Need to increase trim level. Oh you wanted a manual gearbox? This is only available for base trim. Need a reverse automatic emergency brake warning to keep your teen out of trouble?As long as he doesn’t mind buying the four totally unrelated features as well, that’s fine. Perhaps automakers signed “passenger stuffing into Congressional Bill 101” in college and decided that buying a car should be just as painful.
Some automakers are toying with the idea of changing the buying process. Instead of buying the features and packages you need when you buy a new car, automakers grant access to features through subscription programs. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on cold weather packages, you can pay for things like seat heaters only in the cold months when you need them. After indulging in the slippery slope logic fallacy for a while, what next? Can businesses have horsepower behind subscription paywalls? What about safety features? Can companies turn off some features so that some tech companies stop supporting older software?
Recently, while playing around the menus of the 2023 BMW X1, I came across a group of screens offering just such a subscription. BMW TeleService and Remote Software Upgrade showed the message Activated, while BMW Drive Recorder had 1 month, 1 year, 3 years or “unlimited” subscription options.reaction from car and driver Staff were quick and emotional. One member of staff responded to the menu with a vomiting emoji, while another likened the concept to the video game Battle His Pass.
We reached out to BMW to ask about the menu we found and learn more about their plans for future subscriptions. “This makes things more digestible for consumers, as upgrade availability depends on factors such as model year, equipment level and software version,” a BMW representative said. explained.
For example, our X1 has an optional fee of $25 a year for traffic camera alerts, but that option is not available on cars without the BMW Live Cockpit. Instead of listing all available options online, owners can see what subscriptions are available for their vehicle from the menu on the vehicle itself or from the companion app.
BMW USA may not want to confuse customers by listing all their options in one place, but BMW Australia has no such concerns. In the land below, front seat heaters and steering wheel heaters are available on a monthly basis, similar to BMW’s parking assistant technology. By contrast, BMW USA issued a statement in July saying that if a U.S. market vehicle is ordered from the factory with heated seats, that option will continue to work throughout the vehicle’s useful life.
The merits of automotive technology-based subscriptions are still inconclusive. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with giving customers the freedom to buy what they want or need instead of forcing them to buy the entire package. solution?
In 2019, BMW announced it would charge customers $80 per year for wireless Apple CarPlay. After considerable public backlash, BMW reversed its decision and instead gave the technology away for free. BMW is venturing into largely uncharted waters here. Public opinion courts have forced BMW to cancel subscriptions in the past. If people decide that these new subscriptions are just as bad as the old ones, will they force BMW again?
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