BMW is now selling heated seat subscriptions in several countries, the latest example of the company’s use of microtransactions for high-end car features.
According to The Verge, the BMW subscription plan for seat heaters is available in the United Kingdom for approximately $17 per month and in South Korea for roughly $18 per month.
Seat warmers are provided “at no extra expense” in some BMWs, according to the BMW UK website. However, customers must purchase a $17 monthly membership plan or pay $416 to unlock the service on an “unlimited basis” to access the actual seat-warming function. The seat warmers are “then enabled in your vehicle” after the purchase, according to the website.
More firms are turning to subscription models, which provide a consistent source of revenue and have grown in popularity in recent years, according to a 2021 report from consulting firm McKinsey.
The seat warmer subscription proposal prompted criticism on social media, implying that consumers are becoming wary of monthly fees for anything from video-streaming services to apparel, such as Amazon’s Personal Shopper service.
While consumers are accustomed to paying monthly fees for services such as satellite radio in their cars, paying a membership fee for an automobile’s hardware remains unusual.
“The car will come with all the necessary components, but payment is needed to remove a software block,” one Twitter user noted. “Welcome to microtransaction hell.”
“BMW is starting to sell a subscription fee for heated seats to remove the software that blocks you from gaining access to it. Capitalism doesn’t breed innovation. Capitalism breeds a future where people have to jailbreak their car for features already built into it,” another Twitter user commented.
According to BMW, the seat warmer subscription is unavailable in the United States.
“Options like heated seats are ordered on over 90% of the BMWs sold in the USA,” a spokesman said. “BMW of North America does not expect factory option purchase levels to change significantly going forward.”
“With BMW Functions on Demand, customers will be able to explore new software-based features on a short-term basis by purchasing a trial, or buying that feature outright for a period of time or for the life of the vehicle,” the spokesman noted.
These services are “primarily intended as a digital aftersales solution and will not affect options ordered at the time of vehicle purchase,” he added.