If online sentiment is anything to go by, then it seems that most people aren’t too fond of subscription-based services in their cars. That, however, hasn’t stopped BMW from doubling down on its stance to offer items such as seat heating and high-beam assistant for a monthly fee, insisting that its customers will eventually get used to the new way of life.
To be fair to BMW, many of the criticisms online were slightly misguided; the company clarified that customers who have already purchased the feature in their cars will not need to pay a monthly subscription to unlock them. But still, charging a fee for items already built into the car does still leave a sour taste in our mouths.
BMW says that its subscription service is meant to offer even more flexibility for its customers, and in certain cases, even saving them money in the long run. Owners will be able to test out offerings from the ConnectedDrive store before deciding to purchase (or subscribe to) them, and the carmaker also envisions a future where customers can unlock features – including entertainment and even performance upgrades – even for just single trips.
In a new report from Bloomberg, BMW spokesperson Torsten Julich was quoted as saying, “We know from our customers that their mobility demands are not as static as they used to be.” And to a certain degree, we do agree with that sentiment.
For example, many of us are now driving less frequently as the pandemic has shifted a large part of the workforce to work-from-home arrangements, so paying for rarely-used features such as Driving Assistant Plus on a per-use basis (on road trips for example) does sound more enticing than shelling out a huge sum upfront.
Still, with the amount of bad press BMW is getting, there must be a more substantial reason for them to keep up with this subscription crusade right? Well, there is, and as always, it’s about money.
According to the report, BMW is expecting a revenue in the region of EUR5 billion from its digital offerings just from this decade, and they’re not alone in this – Stellantis is eyeing EUR20 billion of extra revenue from software-driven features by the end of the decade, while Volkswagen has also been on a hiring spree to build its pay-as-you-go software model on the Cariad software stack.
And don’t get us started with Tesla, who arguably pioneered the subscription model in cars by charging its customers an “activation fee” for features already built into their cars.
So is there anything that we consumers can do? In all honestly, the answer is probably no. But if they’ve walked back once before on charging a subscription fee for Apple CarPlay, there’s a possibility – however small it may be – that they’ll do it again, so vote with your wallets.