Something strange is happening at BMW. Basically, they’ve started charging customers a monthly fee (subscription) for features their cars already are equipped with. Worse, it has now reached Malaysia and can only get worse.
On the international stage, the Munich automaker has been fielding this subscription-based feature set in other markets to test the waters such as in their home market of Germany, South Korea, and more recently North America where it was rightfully met with vehement backlash.
BMW Malaysia has a paywall to access car features
While most of us relate monthly subscriptions to such services as Netflix and Spotify, the concept BMW is implementing more closely parallels that of the dreaded microtransactions (MTX for short) in video games where a player would need to spend more real-world money to fully experience it.
It’s a dubious practice, to say the least, couched beneath a vague mask of 'flexibility' and 'choice'. It opens the door to so many ill and exploitative practices that seek only to siphon money from your wallet. Death by a thousand cuts.
BMW Malaysia has published a list of features that owners can ‘add’ to their cars under the ‘Digital Services’ page of their menu (under Find & Buy), which will use the car’s ConnectedDrive system to either enable or disable. It’s a software block to let you access features the car already has, using hardware that it already came equipped with from the factory.
For example, heated front seats on your premium German BMW start at RM80 per month, RM780 for 1 year, RM1,230 for 3 years, or (BEST VALUE!) a one-time payment of RM1,750 for ‘Unlimited’ use. The same is true for a heated steering wheel, which will cost owners RM50 per month, RM410 for 1 year, RM690 for 3 years, or RM950 for ‘Unlimited’.
Amazing. Barulah is Sheer Driving Pleasure!
The reason we’re singling those two ‘features’ is because the under-seat and steering wheel heating elements are already there, present in the car, but purposely left dorman and inaccessible by BMW until you spread open your wallet a little wider.
It isn’t as if you have to bring your car to your nearest dealer to have some new piece of hardware installed. Again, it's already there. And it's your car, which you've paid for.
More alarming is the fact that the automaker is starting to withhold important safety features from its customers behind a monthly paywall as even High Beam Assistant (Automatic High Beam) is an RM40/month add-on.
By doing so, they’re seemingly willing to let their cars be a little less safe until they get more money out of you. And, once again, most amusing of all, they’re trying to package this as an advantage that serves the buyer under an illusion of flexibility and customer choice.
There's absolutely zero chance that BMWs are going to get any less expensive to buy because of this piecemeal approach. The upfront cost of a BMW will be just as high, or likely higher as time goes on, but you'll get less for your money unless you pay...and pay....and pay again.
Suddenly there will be an active community of DIY hackers trying their hardest to jailbreak BMWs. They're not the only ones, though. Tesla has been taking part in this kind of nonsense for years and Mercedes-Benz seems to be following this shady trend as well.
We'll cover more of this in-depth in a subsequent article that'll be focusing more on why in-car feature unlocking is a chilling development and must not be tolerated. If we turn a blind eye and let it persist, it could spell a new dark age of motoring and non-existent car ownership fuelled by corporate greed and spin.