BMW USA Will Not Subscribe to Heated Seats If Option Already Selected


You may have heard of BMW’s move to charge a monthly subscription fee for some common features such as heated seats. It seems the whole world have been hearing since broke the news of the $18 monthly fee for warm seats in South Korea. BMW apparently heard too, prompting the automaker to release a statement clarifying its subscription service known as BMW Functions on Demand.

The main takeaway is that, at least in the United States, BMW will not charge a subscription fee for options the buyer has already selected and paid for. Simply put, if you buy a new BMW X3 or any Bimmer with heated seats either as standard equipment or a paid option, it’s a done deal. There is no need for a monthly subscription to use, and that applies to the next owner who buys a used car. If a feature is included or added as an option, it always available for car life.

In its statement, BMW explained that Functions on Demand works with software-based features using hardware already installed in the vehicle. This allows shoppers to sample features before deciding if they want them, perhaps saving a little money on the purchase price. For example, BMW highlighted the dash cam feature currently available through Functions on Demand in the US, using the built-in camera for an advanced driver assistance system. The automaker is also downgrading remote start to Functions on Demand, which requires a subscription or purchase to activate.

If the hardware already exists, why put feature functionality behind a paywall to use? In this case, the user pays for the software to use it. For now, only these two features are offered through Functions on Demand in the US market. But as we saw with BMW’s seat heating feature in South Korea, not all markets are the same.

Subscribe to BMW heated seats

Here is BMW’s full statement about its subscriptions and Functions on Demand system:

As buyers of premium vehicles, BMW customers in the US demand a high level of equipment in their vehicles. Options like heated seats are reserved for more than 90 percent of BMWs sold in the US. BMW North America does not expect the rate of purchase of factory options to change significantly going forward. BMW Functions on Demand on the other hand is designed to offer premium features through software uploads that use data and sensors from factory-selected hardware already installed in BMW vehicles.

For example, some BMW models equipped with certain factory-specific options can now add the first two Functions on Demand features available in the US – namely a dash cam function called the BMW Drive Recorder and a BMW Remote Engine Start function – via software download within customer vehicle. The BMW Drive Recorder feature uses the camera required for advanced driver assistance systems for dash cam functionality.

This gives customers the possibility to add new software-based functionality and a level of flexibility that they can test, and then decide whether to purchase vehicle features that were not originally available at the time of the original vehicle purchase.

With BMW Functions on Demand, customers will be able to explore new software-based features on a short-term basis by purchasing a trial, or purchasing the feature outright for a specific period of time or for the lifetime of the vehicle. It is important to note that BMW Functions on Demand is intended primarily as a digital after-sales solution and will not affect the options ordered at the time of vehicle purchase. For example, if the vehicle was originally ordered with heated seats, that option is not lost or a monthly fee is charged.

Please note that BMW Functions on Demand and the possibility to test or purchase certain options after the point of purchase are part of a global after-sales strategy that BMW has introduced in various markets around the world, including on a small scale in the US. The features available in these digital aftermarkets will vary from market to market. Customers can browse the features available at their local ConnectedDrive store online.

Looking for more BMW content? Check out our Rambling About Cars podcast by looking at BMW models past, present and future.


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