No, you won't be forced to pay for heated seats every month.
The internet has not been a friendly place for BMW over the last couple of days. For once, this has nothing to do with a frosty response to one of its controversial car designs. No, BMW's latest foible has been the introduction of subscription-based services and features for its cars.
Now rolling out to customers in South Korea, they can choose to subscribe to select features like heated seats or a drive recorder for a monthly fee. For many fans, it seems rightly preposterous that you could buy a new car and have to continue paying for certain features. In an effort to appease concerned North American clients who may not want to fork out extra for common features in their already expensive 3 Series or X3, BMW USA has released a lengthy statement on the topic. Officially called BMW's Function on Demand strategy, the brand wanted to clarify how it will be implemented in the USA.
"As premium vehicle purchasers, BMW customers in the USA demand a high level of equipment in their vehicles. Options like heated seats are ordered on over 90% of the BMWs sold in the USA. If a vehicle is initially ordered with heated seats, that option will remain fully operational for the life of the vehicle. BMW of North America does not expect factory option purchase levels to change significantly going forward."
This indicates that, for most BMW customers, purchasing optional extras won't differ in any way in the future. But, using the BMW Drive Recorder and the BMW remote Engine Start function as examples, the company dove into more detail about how these features could provide a level of flexibility to customers.
"BMW Functions on Demand on the other hand is designed to offer premium features through software uploads that use data and sensors from factory option hardware already built into BMW vehicles," continued the statement. "As an example, some BMW models equipped with certain specific options from the factory can currently add the first two Functions on Demand features available in the US - namely a dash cam function called BMW Drive Recorder and BMW Remote Engine Start function - through a software download in a customer's vehicle.
The BMW Drive Recorder feature uses the cameras needed for advanced driver assist systems for dash cam functionality. This gives customers the possibility of adding new software-based functionality and a degree of flexibility in that they will be able to test, and then decide whether or not to purchase a vehicle feature that was not initially available at the time of the original vehicle purchase."
BMW says that once the trial of a certain feature is completed, customers can elect to buy it outright for either a certain period of time or for the life of the vehicle. For a newer piece of tech like the drive recorder that most people would have done without for ages, this makes sense. But we're pretty sure that heated seats will be something you either want or don't want.
BMW's lengthy statement for Functions on Demand makes it clear that some amount of damage control is taking place following the release of these services in South Korea. We figure that as long as BMW customers can still purchase options outright as they always have done and have access to those features for the duration of the car's life, there's not much to be concerned about.
While BMW is an easy target right now, automakers like Stellantis have also pledged to invest heavily in subscription services in the years to come.