BMW rethinks charging for heated seats via software updates

BMW has abandoned charging customers subscription fees for heated seats in an early indication there will be limits for manufacturers to reap new revenue from software-based services.

The automaker will go back to offering heated seats and wheels as optional equipment, rather than outfitting its vehicles with the hardware and charging consumers later, Pieter Nota, BMW’s head of sales and marketing, told Autocar.

The company confirmed the comments and said it will continue to offer functions such as remote engine start and driver-assistance features on demand.

“We thought that we would provide an extra service to the customer by offering the chance to activate that later,” Nota told Autocar.

“People feel that they paid double — which was actually not true, but perception is reality.”

Automakers including General Motors, Ford Motor and Tesla have been testing the willingness of consumers to pay to access certain in-car services with manufacturers keen to tap new profit pools.

GM expects between $20 billion and $25 billion a year in software revenue by 2030, chiming broadly with predictions by Stellantis.

The industry is trying to catch up with Tesla, which has been delighting owners for years with playful software features like musical car horns or Christmas light shows that appear after a software update.

There is also the option of paying $199 for the not-yet-operational Full Self Driving capability.

Elsewhere, drivers have been much less willing to engage with paid-for tech, particularly when it means paying to use features relying on pre-installed hardware, such as the remote-start function on a key fob or simply going faster.

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