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BMW's Heated Seat Subscription Is Dead; Others Live On

BMW has done an about-face on heated seat subscriptions, and consumers should learn from this

2023 BMW XM
  • BMW pulled its heated seat subscription, citing consumer backlash.
  • This is not the end of subscriptions and BMW, and more are to come.
  • BMW will instead look at software-based services for future subscription revenue.

The long saga of BMW’s subscription-based heated seats feature has come to a close. At least in part. Speaking to Autocar, BMW board member for sales and marketing Pieter Nota said: “What we won’t do anymore … is offer seat heating by this way [a monthly subscription].”

According to the report, Nota said that customer response was the reason BMW won’t be offering the feature as part of a subscription. When asked how BMW will make sure customers are made to feel they’re not being made to pay extra for functions that would typically be standard, the board member had this to say: “We have some experience with that, and testing how the customer responds is part of that process.”

BMW iX Interior

The heated seat subscription was reportedly going to cost buyers $18 a month, but Nota told Autocar that BMW buyers “feel that they paid double” for the feature before insisting that isn’t true. However, he acknowledged that “perception is reality." He also added “we thought we would provide an extra service to the customer by offering the chance to activate that [heated seats] later ...,” but if customers feel slighted, it doesn't matter how the argument for such a decision is presented.

While heated seats are out, other aspects of the brand’s relatively new subscription model are not. “We actually are now focusing with those ‘functions on demand’ on software and service-related products, like driving assistance and parking assistance, which you can add later after purchasing the car, or for certain functions that require data transmission that customers are used to paying for in other areas," he told Autocar.

These ideas, according to Nota, have been better received, especially “software-based services” like parking assist. The BMW man likens consumer perception of these features to “downloading a film or an extra feature on an app.”

Edmunds says

Subscriptions as a whole are a very slippery slope for consumers. While BMW has stopped heading down one avenue due to backlash, it and other automakers continue to use subscription services as a way to extract revenue from customers for features that in some cases were once one-time purchases. Consumers should exercise their right to vote with their wallets, a viable strategy evidenced by BMW’s about-face on a desirable feature.