Paying a monthly subscription fee for heated seats isn’t taking off for BMW. In a recent interview, Pieter Nota, the automaker’s board member for sales and marketing, said that the company plans to offer no longer a subscription for activating a vehicle’s heated seats after it has left the factory.
Nota told Autocar that “the user acceptance isn’t that high” for the service, adding that customers felt like they were paying double. The company isn’t completely eliminating subscriptions, instead focusing on software and service-related products – think driver and parking assistance features. BMW’s customers are more open to subscribing to these offerings after purchasing the vehicle, and the company sees the potential.
The automaker ruffled feathers last year when its heated seat subscription service became a reality. BMW didn’t implemented in every market, with US buyers avoiding having to pay the fee.
Subscription services for once-included vehicle features are new for the industry. The increased digitization of modern cars allows automakers to inject more software-related services and paywalls into the driving and ownership experiences as companies seek new revenue streams.
Consumers might not like subscriptions, but they are also not opposed to them if they add value, according to an S&P Global Mobility study from earlier this year. It revealed that consumers highly desire features like enhanced navigation and advanced driver-assist systems and are willing to subscribe to them, but paying for heated seats and remote start functionality garnered less interest.
Automakers could struggle to convince consumers to subscribe to certain features. A Cox Automotive study found that only 21 percent of the 2,000 in-market car buyers it polled were aware of in-vehicle subscription services. Most respondents – 53 percent – said subscriptions are a benefit if they lowered the vehicle’s upfront price. Nearly 70 percent said they’d shop elsewhere if a brand only offered certain features through a monthly subscription.
Putting features behind paywalls makes the car-shopping experience even more challenging as automakers take unique approaches to such services. Volvo announced earlier this year that it wouldn’t offer a subscription plan for heated seats. On the other end of the spectrum is a company like Mercedes-Benz, which announced last year that owners of its electric EQ models could wring out more power for $1,200 a year, increasing a vehicle’s output by 20 to 24 percent.
It seems like every day, there is something new to subscribe to as the idea of actually owning things slips away. Subscription services once reserved for music, movies, and smartphone applications have made their way to the automobile, and it’ll be interesting to watch automakers navigate this new reality. Adding features after purchasing a vehicle is appealing if consumers feel it adds value.
As Volvo’s Chief Operating Officer Björn Annwall said in January: “We will not ask people who have bought a car for 1 million kronor [$90,000] to pay another 10 kronor [$0.90] to get extra heat in the seat.”