BMW Scraps Subscription Fee for Heated Seats After Customer Backlash

BMW has decided to end its controversial practice of charging customers a monthly subscription fee to use the heated seats and steering wheel in their cars. The German automaker faced criticism and ridicule for requiring drivers to pay extra for features that were already installed in their vehicles.

BMW’s Subscription Model for Hardware Features

BMW introduced its subscription model for hardware features in 2020, as part of its Connected Drive portfolio. The idea was to offer customers more flexibility and choice, by allowing them to activate or deactivate certain features on demand, such as seat heating, adaptive cruise control, or high-beam assistant.

BMW Scraps Subscription Fee for Heated Seats After Customer Backlash
BMW Scraps Subscription Fee for Heated Seats After Customer Backlash

The subscription model also aimed to reduce production costs and complexity, by installing the same hardware in every car, regardless of the customer’s preferences. Customers who did not opt for heated seats or steering wheel from the factory could later unlock them with either a monthly fee or a one-time purchase.

However, the subscription model proved to be unpopular and widely criticized by customers and media outlets. Many felt that BMW was double-dipping, by charging customers for features that they had already paid for when buying the car. Some also questioned the ethics and legality of disabling features that could enhance safety and comfort.

BMW’s Change of Heart

After months of negative feedback and mockery, BMW has finally decided to abandon its subscription model for hardware features. Pieter Nota, BMW’s marketing boss, told Autocar magazine that the company will no longer offer seat heating or steering wheel heating by monthly subscriptions.

“It’s either in or out. We offer it by the factory and you either have it or you don’t have it,” Nota said.

Nota explained that the customer acceptance of the subscription model was low, and that people felt that they were paying double for the features. He also admitted that the perception was not aligned with the reality, as BMW claimed that the subscription fees were lower than the factory options.

“We thought that we would provide an extra service to the customer by offering the chance to activate that later, but the user acceptance isn’t that high. People feel that they paid double, which was actually not true, but perception is reality, I always say. So that was the reason we stopped that,” Nota said.

BMW’s Future Plans for Subscription Services

Despite scrapping its subscription model for hardware features, BMW is still committed to offering subscription services for software-based features. Nota said that BMW will continue to refine its Connected Drive offerings, and make the latest technologies available to its customers.

Some of the software features that BMW offers as subscriptions include traffic camera information, iconic sounds sport, driver assistance systems, digital assistant services, and Apple CarPlay integration. These features can be updated and improved over time, and customers can choose to activate them for a certain period or permanently.

BMW is not the only automaker that is experimenting with subscription services for car features. Tesla, Volvo, Ford, and others have also launched similar initiatives, as part of their efforts to create new revenue streams and enhance customer loyalty. However, BMW’s heated seat saga shows that not all features are suitable for subscriptions, and that customers may not appreciate being nickel-and-dimed for basic comforts.

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