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BMW Folds on Heated Seat Subscription Plan After Widespread Outrage

The allure of a subscription service for a merchant is rather evident. Traditionally, a company like BMW sells a car, and that’s the end of the transaction. They have to rely on the hope that the car buyer will return to a BMW dealership for servicing, as a single sale might not translate into sustained revenue. However, the introduction of a subscription model could potentially offer a way for companies like BMW to earn money more passively. When executed properly, it can benefit both the buyer and the seller, providing a win-win scenario.

But, when we gauge the opinion of the general car-buying public, it seems that the vast majority would take issue with the way BMW attempted to implement a subscription service last year.

For those who might have missed the viral headlines, BMW made a controversial decision to put certain car features behind a paywall. Perhaps the most widely discussed feature was the $18-per-month subscription for heated seats, initially introduced in specific test markets to gauge its viability.

The concept of paying a subscription fee for something that you’ve already paid to have installed in your car ignited widespread outrage.

Recently, BMW decided to backtrack on the idea of locking hardware behind a paywall and announced that they would only charge for strictly software-based services. For example, BMW owners now have the option to pay for driving assistance and parking assistance.

My Take:  it appears that people generally don’t mind paying for a subscription service when it involves something that costs the seller money to maintain over time.

A classic example, as cited by YouTube lawyer Steve Lehto, is Sirius XM Radio. People didn’t express outrage when they had to purchase the equipment and then pay for a subscription service. In this case, the commercial-free radio channels on XM required ongoing maintenance costs and if they didn’t want XM, the radio still functioned for regular channels. However, when buyers are already paying for features like heated seats and are then asked to pay extra to use them without any additional effort on BMW’s part, the ensuing outrage appears entirely justified.

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