is it really a problem?

This is news that has sparked heated debate since our colleagues at The Verge recalled the case. BMW charges $ 18 a month for the right to use heated seats. In France, the option is billed at € 20 a month, or € 180 for a year. Those who want to be entitled to heated seats for only 3 years pay € 280. And this is not the only payment option billed in the form of a subscription: Drive Assist Plus (40 € / month), Anti-glare lights (10 € / month), BMW Drive Recorder (table camera, 15 € / month) , heating. flying (15 € / month) and even a “Online Entertainment” voucher for unlimited access to music streaming (220 € for a year). But what is shocking, exactly?

Sign up to use your car

Actually, what poses a problem in this case is the fact that the computer is already “pre-installed” in the vehicle. Obviously, you only pay to unlock the use of a heated seat or steering wheel that, whatever happens, is already installed in your car (subject to opting for a certain level of finish). This is what manufacturers call “preparation” for equipment. But how do you know if an option is available?

“The availability of this feature depends on the equipment installed on your BMW. When you log in to the BMW store, only the services you can use with your vehicle are automatically displayed. If the service is not available, the necessary equipment is not installed in your BMW “, specifies the manufacturer. Therefore, the owner buys options on the fly in the BMW online store, as the player buys additional content for to your video game.Here are the details.

But why pay for something that is already in your car? If the computer is factory installed, doesn’t that mean it is billed to the customer? It’s actually a little trickier than that …

Simpler for the manufacturer, cheaper for the customer?

The idea of ​​the subscription is to give flexibility to customers … and cheaper cars. But how? The explanation lies next to the factories. For manufacturers, the more options there are, the more complex and expensive production becomes, due to the countless combinations offered to customers. Rationalizing and simplifying production lines are the nerves of war plant managers, who will no doubt see these subscriptions in a very positive light. Instead of giving a buyer a chance to choose from hundreds of options, they are “offered” a vehicle that is already partially equipped. It is then up to you to activate certain options temporarily or permanently. In fact, the subscription system does not preclude full purchase. For heated seats, for example, the purchase price is € 400.

As you can imagine, it is very difficult to say if BMW does not take advantage of this to pass on the price of the equipment needed for the option to the total cost of the vehicle. On its official website, BMW specifies: “If the heated driver’s and passenger’s seats are available, the equipment needed for this functionality is already installed free of charge in your departure vehicle.”

In other words, theoretically you buy a car at the same price as if it had been without heated seats, just because production is streamlined and the manufacturer reduces production costs. Well, that is, of course, the theory.

Anyway, this subscription system goes very well with leasing, the preferred financing of premium customers : the client of a 2 or 3 year contract may decide to use an option that may not be of interest to the tenant or buyer at the end of the contract. And then why pay for a heated steering wheel that will only be used for two to three months a year?

Remember, however, that BMW is not the only manufacturer opting for this new policy: Volkswagen, Audi, Tesla and even Stellantis already have systems of subscription options, or plan to deploy them. Subscriptions that could make hackers happy.

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