Last month in my newsfeed was an item “BMW Selling Subscriptions To Heated Seats.” The headline had me dumbfounded for a minute. How is BMW going to sell hardware as a subscription? Is the dealer going to install the heater and take the heating elements out when they don’t pay their bill? Doesn’t the owner own the seats?
Clicking on the story, I found out that BMW will be selling subscriptions using over-the-air updates to customers on the new BMW Five-Series for adaptive cruise control, suspension settings and other options like remote start. Owners can try a one-month trial or purchase a subscription for a season package.
I did some more research and found many manufacturers already have similar programs. Tesla is the most militant and will turn off features like fast DC charging if it thinks the vehicle has unauthorized service or if it is sold. On the other extreme are automakers charging for infotainment upgrades like navigation and Apple Car Play by just changing the software.
For the automakers, it is a revenue stream for vehicles that are already sold. For shops, it could mean another level of telematics security that could lock them out from data or reflashing procedures.
We are already experiencing this with the Fiat Chrysler security gateway that requires up to three different subscriptions to access some modules and functions. I am sure the BMW telematics module managing the subscriptions for optional will be off-limits to all independent shops.
My only question to BMW and other automakers is, where will they be in ten or 15 years? Will an automaker still support older platforms and technologies when the second or third owner needs to have their vehicle serviced or renew a subscription for heated seats they technically already own? If you think the OEMs already have a long-term plan ready to deal with THIS headache, I can guarantee they don’t.