We’ve been “warned” about how subscriptions could become the automotive equivalent of a video game’s downloadable content, and we’re beginning to see more examples. On its ConnectedDrive Store in South Korea, BMW owners can pay a monthly fee to have a creature comfort such as heated seats. It costs ₩24,000 or approximately $18 at current exchange rates. Alternatively, you can get a one-year plan for $176 or a three-year subscription for $283.
The BMW ConnectedDrive Store is a portal used by existing owners to download a variety of apps. It’s all done over the air, without having to visit a dealer to have the new software installed. With heated seats, the German luxury brand is kind enough to provide a one-month test period free of charge. Should you want the feature permanently, that’ll set you back $406.
A similar subscription plan is offered for a heated steering wheel and it costs $10 per month, $92 annually, and $161 for three years. You can also buy it outright for $222. Do you want wireless Apple CarPlay? That’ll be $305. The store also allows BMW customers to upgrade the headlights to include a high-beam assistant, additional safety systems, and the camera-based Driver Recorder.
One of the most unusual items found in the BMW ConnectedDrive Store is called IconicSounds Sport. It essentially plays fake engine noises through the car’s speakers should you be willing to pay $138 to have the feature permanently. There are no monthly or yearly subscription plans available for this “feature.”
If you’re wondering about the potential of in-car subscriptions from a business perspective, Stellantis estimates it’ll make a whopping $23 billion (yes, with a “b”) a year by the end of this decade. With the risk of stating the obvious, you’re paying for features the car already comes with, at least if we’re talking about heated seats/steering wheel.
We can already imagine a smartphone-like jailbreak to unlock these goodies without having to pay the automaker. Doing so will likely result in voiding the warranty after taking down the automaker’s paywall. Even if someone is willing to wait until the warranty expires, chances are that person will hack the car the very next day to “download” all the available features.
Of course, this isn’t something new as upgrades through the OBD port have been around for many years, especially for VAG products.