BMW caught the entirety of the internet’s flak with a recent announcement about its Functions on Demand system, in which customers can choose to pay monthly subscriptions for certain options. The initial story that started the global pile on by enthusiasts was of BMW’s heated seat subscription in Korea. Naturally, that led to fans, customers, and enthusiasts to question whether such a program would come to America and, more importantly, whether it should. However, a BMW USA spokesperson released a statement today following up on the recent news.
As cynical as it can seem to offer subscription services for parts already in the car, BMW argues that this service offers more flexibility for customers. Certain features, such as remote engine start and the drive recorder are features customers might want to test drive for a month before buying in full. Plus, BMW will always offer the ability to buy options in permanently, like normal.
Statement from BMW of North America
As premium vehicle purchasers, BMW customers in the USA demand a high level of equipment in their vehicles. Options like heated seats are ordered on over 90% of the BMW’s sold in the USA. BMW of North America does not expect factory option purchase levels to change significantly going forward. BMW Functions on Demand on the other hand is designed to offer premium features through software upload that use data and sensors from factory option hardware already built into BMW vehicles.
As an example, some BMW models equipped with certain specific options from the factory can currently add the first two Functions on Demand features available in the US – namely a dash cam function called BMW Drive Recorder and BMW Remote Engine Start function—through a software download in a customer’s vehicle. The BMW Drive Recorder feature uses the cameras needed for advanced driver assist systems for dash cam functionality.
This gives customers the possibility of adding new software based functionality and a degree of flexibility in that they will be able to test, and then decide whether or not to purchase a vehicle feature that was not initially available at the time of the original vehicle purchase.
With BMW Functions on Demand, customers will be able to explore new software based features on a short-term basis by purchasing a trial, or buying that feature outright for a period of time or for the life of the vehicle. It is important to note that BMW Functions on Demand is intended primarily as a digital aftersales solution and will not affect options that were ordered at the time of the vehicle purchase. For example, if a vehicle is initially ordered with heated seats, that option will not go away nor be subjected to a monthly fee.
Please note that BMW Functions on Demand and the possibility to test or purchase select options after the point of purchase is part of a global aftersales strategy that BMW has introduced in various markets around the world, including on a small-scale basis in the U.S. The features that are available in this digital aftermarket will vary from market-to-market. Customers can browse available features in their local ConnectedDrive store online.
As it stands right now, there isn’t much of a problem with this option subscription service. BMW will tailor the options to different markets and there will be a perma-buy option. After all, BMW isn’t the only brand offering such services. However, there’s a real fear from customers about a future of microtransaction hell, where all options are hidden behind subscription paywalls and pricing gets out of hand. No such things have happened yet. So as long as BMW keeps prices normal, and doesn’t get rid of perma-buy options, things will be fine.