BMW abandons heated seat monthly fee amidst criticism

BMW has decided to terminate its $18 monthly subscription plan for heated seats due to customer dissatisfaction with the idea of paying extra for features that came standard with their vehicles. Pieter Nota, a BMW board member responsible for sales and marketing, made this announcement during an interview at the IAA Mobility conference in Munich, acknowledging the poor reception of the subscription model.

Nota provided an explanation for the decision, saying, “Our intention was to improve the customer experience by allowing feature activation at a later time, but the level of acceptance among users did not meet our expectations. Many customers felt they were being charged twice, even though that was not the case. Perception often shapes reality, and that’s why we opted to discontinue this subscription service.”

Initially, the subscription model generated interest when it was introduced in BMW’s digital stores across various countries, offering monthly, yearly, three-year, and “unlimited” access options, with prices ranging from $18 to $415, depending on the region. While heated seats will still be available as optional packages when purchasing a vehicle, other features like advanced driver-assist technologies and adaptive suspension will continue to be offered as subscriptions in select regions.

It’s worth noting that the heated seats subscription was never introduced in the United States, as confirmed by a BMW spokesperson. However, it was offered in countries such as the UK, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, and South Africa. Additionally, the heated steering wheel subscription has also been removed from the ConnectedDrive store.

This is not the first time BMW has experimented with subscription models that have not succeeded. They previously attempted to charge customers for annual access to Apple’s CarPlay, a departure from most manufacturers who offer CarPlay and Android Auto for free. BMW also explored “Access by BMW,” a $2,000 per month subscription service that provided access to various BMW vehicles. Both of these programs were eventually discontinued.

Despite these setbacks, subscription models are gaining momentum in the automotive industry, as they capitalize on over-the-air software updates to create additional revenue streams. While consumers are generally willing to pay for added features like advanced safety technology, charging for standard functions or those typically included with the vehicle’s purchase can lead to negative publicity, as seen in this case.

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