We’ve been “warned” about how subscriptions can become the equivalent of automotive downloadable video game content, and we’re starting to see more examples. At the ConnectedDrive Store in South Korea, BMW owners can pay a monthly fee for comforts such as heated seats. It costs 24,000 or about $18 at current exchange rates. Alternatively, you can get a one-year plan for $176 or a three-year subscription for $283.
The BMW ConnectedDrive Store is a portal used by existing owners to download various applications. Everything is done over the air, without having to visit a dealer to install new software. With heated seats, the German luxury brand is kind enough to provide a free trial period of one month. If you want the feature permanently, it will set you back $406.
Similar subscription plans are offered for heated steering wheels and cost $10 per month, $92 per year, and $161 for three years. You can also buy it outright for $222. Do you want wireless Apple CarPlay? That would be $305. The store also allows BMW customers to upgrade the headlights to include a high-beam assistant, an additional security system, and a camera-based Driver Recorder.
One of the most unusual items found at the BMW ConnectedDrive Store is called the IconicSounds Sport. It basically plays a fake engine sound through the car speakers if you’re willing to pay $138 to have the feature permanently. There are no monthly or annual subscription plans available for this “feature”.
If you’re wondering about the potential for in-car subscriptions from a business perspective, Stellantis estimates it will generate $23 billion (yes, with a “b”) per year by the end of the decade. At the risk of stating the obvious, you’re paying for a feature already built into the car, at least if we’re talking about heated seats/steering wheels.
We can already imagine jailbreak like a smartphone to unlock this stuff without having to pay the automaker. Doing so will likely result in voiding the warranty after removing the automaker’s paywall. Even if someone is willing to wait until the warranty expires, chances are that person will hack the car the next day to “download” all the available features.
Of course, this is nothing new as upgrades via the OBD port have been around for years, especially for VAG products.