Pay after paying - BMW’s micro-transactions have created a hullaballoo

Pay after paying - BMW’s micro-transactions have created a hullaballoo

The Bavarian brand has come under fi re in recent weeks following the introduction of a subscription plan for certain features, namely heated seats and steering wheels, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.


Here’s the gist of it. Niceties like heated seats and steering wheels will be used only at certain times of the year. For the rest of the time, you probably won’t even think about activating those items. These features will form part of the company’s ConnectedDrive Upgrades, which BMW believes could be a major alternative revenue stream. The brand forecasts its digital offerings may bring in as much as R83 billion during this decade.

Much of the heated online debate is that there was some confusion regarding the introduction of the subscription services for the heated seats in South Korea, where all new BMWs are sold standard with heated seats. But this just brought it to the attention of the world.

Above a certain price point – where these niceties are likely standard – you won’t need to worry. BMW says this micro-transaction strategy will offer buyers of new or even used models greater flexibility. Perhaps you bought your 3 Series without seat heaters, but you know you’re going to need them at the reef during winter. You can access the service for around R250 a month; over the three coldest months of the year, this will cost R750. You can essentially trial the items your car didn’t come with when new for a limited period. Here’s the thing, though: The car is already fi tted with built-in heating coils and you’ll pay more to access it, whether you order the heated seats from the get-go or decide to subscribe at a later date.

You can almost justify this sort of subscription service, but there may be other niceties you’d like to have. You will need to decide whether to purchase these items outright or subscribe to all of them for a few hundred (or thousand) rand more. If you’d bought a used vehicle, you would have to pay more if the previous owner didn’t spec those items.

In addition, the Bavarian brand is contemplating possible upgrades to infotainment systems and drivetrain performance. American EV brand Tesla famously used the latter on the Model S, with a downloadable acceleration mode called Ludicrous. Tesla’s fancy self-driving function costs about R3 000 per month on a subscription basis, or R200 000 to purchase outright. But Tesla’s not really the global player BMW is, and other major manufacturers will no doubt eye BMW’s gameplay over the next months and years. There must be people out there miffed about paying more for services and items already built into their vehicles. It depends on how the car-buying public reacts to these micro-transactions that will affect the future of mobility.

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