The German automaker is pushing its over-the-air paid upgrades.
A European Twitter user was out for a drive in his BMW 530e and went to switch on the high-beam assist feature. Instead of the high beams turning off when sensing oncoming traffic, he got a pop-up message telling him he had to purchase the feature from the ConnectedDrive store. The equipment and software is installed on the car, but it's being held hostage behind a paywall.
"Night drive in a 530e. Pressed the high beam assist button, but a message from the car essentially said 'no, you need to buy the feature first on the ConnectedDrive store.' BMW and Merc both keen to do this more in future, so this won't be the first time we'll see it..." said Jake Groves, an editor for the UK's CAR magazine, on Twitter.
The idea of upselling has been around for decades, particularly in terms of car features. Typically, you would order a new car and tick the option boxes you want, wait a bit, and your new car would be delivered to the dealership a while later. However, many options are now tied to single pieces of technology and BMW is starting to take advantage of that.
For example, if you have the blind spot monitor and warning feature on a car, then chances are you also have a rear cross-traffic alert as they usually use the same sensors. Now, automakers, like BMW and its over-the-air update system, have an opportunity for a new business model. They can fit all the sensors and install the software, sell the car, then let the customer decide what features they pay for.
We caught this tweet via The Verge, a technology news site that is used to this approach with software. It used to be a more common business model that you buy the software at a base price, then unlock the features you want. Typically, now, software companies upsell you to a professional version rather than hold individual features hostage. However, it looks like this approach to upselling will become more and more common if BMW has success with it. As Groves points out in his tweet, Mercedes is also keen to use the model.
Reaction from customers will be varied on this, but the frustration here is that high beam assist is considered a safety feature that prevents drivers from accidentally blinding other road users. It certainly seems that the German automaker is being predatory, holding the feature hostage for extra money from BMW drivers that want to be as responsible as possible. And, of course, we look forward to your jokes in the comments about BMW turn signals.