BMW starts selling heated seat subscriptions for $18 a month

Software blocks, where the hardware for the feature is included but the software won’t allow it to be turned on unless more $$$ are paid, that’s fairly common in high tech gadgetry. There might be two printers by the same manufacturer, one for $100, one for $300, different model numbers, different outside plastics, but the insides identical. Software configuration code is the only thing that prevents the $300 features from being used.

Some marketing sense to that, can introduce the same printer into two markets, and not worry the $100 version will take away from the $300 sales.

There an important ethical question though: what if the feature that is turned off by the software code affects safety? If somebody gets injured, they may claim the safety feature was installed on the car, and manufacture caused the injury b/c they failed to turn the safety feature on.

Trying to think of a constitutional remedy, but if I were a Chinese company, I might reverse engineer the whole thing, pirate the software (they do both) and sell it all for $75 under the zing tu brand. Of course 10% would need to be set aside for protection.

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I doubt that would be allowed. The consumer has no choice whether to choose the required safety features or not. If it’s required, the consumer already paid for it. If the safety feature is not required, then the manufacturer could possibly charge extra. However, they often effectively do that by offering them most complete set of optional safety features on the highest trim levels.


Funny because in my search for a used car the past couple weeks the Q5s all had nav installed but the screen came up with “license not purchased”. Turns out you then can’t buy a license. But you can buy an expensive subscription. My conversation with the local Audi dealer had him claim Audi has no subscriptions. Until I got him to admit it, told him Audi was off my repeat business list.

Anyhow, my point is in BMW the seat heaters are installed. Heaters are usually just wires that get warm with current passing through them. Seems easy to determine the voltage and current that flows when operating, and just feed that power through a new toggle switch to the connector for the seat heaters! I’d bet it’s 12vdc. You may also need to measure the resistance of the heater wires and put a dummy load resistor across the (disconnected) original feed wires to keep the computer happy. Other subscription features not so easy. I would bet it becomes a little industry though, trying to defeat these.
Hackers have already easily gotten into engine starts and other computer areas. Could end up being some hack they could just plug into the diagnostic code box.

A work-a-round may require a thermostat too, to avoid seats getting too hot. I’d suggest that BMW sells the subscription – if they want to risk customers leaving by going down that path – price it at $18 per year, rather than $18 per month.

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I understand your wish for a reasonable solution to this problem. The inevitable evolution of this direction this country and the world is taking eventually will result in your license to the architects plans for your house, will it not? You will eventually end up paying an annual license fee for the design. If you buy a toaster oven, will you pay an annual fee to use it? I feel there must be a court decision enumerating the rights of a purchaser of a device to be able to utilize the services of said device for which he has paid, even if it includes digital coding. Has BMW, for instance, charged the purchaser of the auto for the seat heater equipment? Can BMW provide itemized accounting data proving that they have not? Courts have already, many decades ago, specified that something purchased must provide the service which is expected of it. In other words, if you purchase a light bulb, it must generate light. Similarly it seems, if you purchased seat heaters in a BMW, they must heat the seats. If a computer coding prevents it, then BMW must have a different method such as a manual switch to activate the seat heaters which have been charged to the customer with the understanding that their normal function is to warm seats. This would require manufacturers to provide a carefully itemized list of each tangible component of their device upon initial design to show that , in this case for example, the cost of seat heaters and their installation were not charged to purchasers, they were costs absorbed by manufacturers in an attempt to profit from future licensing or subscription fees.

As a matter of fact, there was something that passed my eyes as I was deciding on a 2021 QX50 that said it would operate for five years and then require renewal or subscriptions or something. It wasn’t anything I really cared about so I ignored it. Perhaps for fun I’ll run these ideas by one of the numerous class action attorneys.

$18/yr might not cover the overhead to run this part of the subscription system. I have a similar situation with my Medicare Part D. I didn’t have drug coverage for two months while the application was under review. Now the charge me $0.70 per month as a penalty for discontinued coverage. It seems to me that below ta certain dollar value Medicare should waive penalties to save money.


You are making WAY too much sense! … lol … I got a tax bill from a gov’t organization for $175.11. I paid it. In a few weeks they wrote back saying I owed another $10.06. Turned out the bill was actually for $175.17. The $10 was a “failure to pay on time” fee. I apparently didn’t notice the amount on the invoice receipt was different than what was printed on the payment return form, likely a problem with the printer low on ink.

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Look at Wellcare. Costs me about $10 a month for druc coverage. Of course they don’t pay anything until you have paid a few thousand, but I rarely have to buy any anyway.

Some moons ago I paid off a credit card. They nicked me for 40 cents in interest still due for that last month. I called them and they wouldn’t budge so I just said fine, I’ll send you a check for the 40 cents. It’ll cost you ten dollars to process it. Smart guy. Hope he got his bonus. I have never done business with that South Dakota company again and never will. Bruce Williams turns over in his grave.

Off topic again but if we are talking money and banking. Many more moons ago I had the opportunity to go to several presentations of Sung Won Sohn when he was chief economist at Norwest Bank in Minneapolis. I have always held him in high regard and always highly accurate. Just noticed he has a few youtubes. Hadn’t heard anything about him since the Merger with Wells Fargo but see he is still active.

I understand having to pay for OnStar, WIFI, Satellite radio and things of that nature because that is an outside service that has to be brought into your vehicle, but if you install/sell me (from the manufacture, not after the fact) a part on my vehicle that only requires a toggle switch to operate like heated seat then I am going to tell you to shove that vehicle up were the sun don’t shine and I am going elsewhere… What is next, I have to pay a monthly fee to use my wipers on high or use my turn signals??? It is the people buying that crap that is the reason they are able to sell it, if everyone said NO, then there wouldn’t be a market for it… Hard to sell something no one is required to use and not paying extra for…

Soo if you are willing to pay for heated seats in a vehicle that requires a monthly fee to use then stop complaining about it cause it is your own fault they are able to sell it… Think about it… lol


I am reasonably sure that there are a lot of people that buy vehicles that have subscription features that don’t realize that it is something they should be aware of.

Can’t speak to car company legalities, but tech companies seem to be allowed to sell the same hardware at different prices depending on the software-selectable options it comes with. One motivation is so the lower price version doesn’t compete in the same market with their premium price version. Asking for a subscription payment to use hardware already on the car seems pretty similar to that.

Have You read the windows agreement? you may own the computer but not the operating system,!

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There is a big difference in an OS that requires updates (well if you don’t like freezing up and stuff) and a seat that can be run using a rocker switch… Many vehicles have heated seats and only require the use of a single finger to operate, BMW is just ripping people off, they are just taxing you for the full use of your vehicles seat… A monkey or bird or mouse can be taught to turn on a freaking heated seat, it doesn’t take the internet or anything special to flip a switch unless it is designed that way…
My 1st experience with heated seats was with my bosses at the time Suburban and I had to use it to go check ot a broken down Lull Forklift… I had multiple layers on plus Carhartt Coveralls on and my Butt started getting crazy hot before I figured out what was going on… I had the window down in degree weather trying to stay cool… :rofl:
So again, word will get out if the dealer is not being honest, which I would hope a upper end dealer would be, and people find out that they have to pay extra, then IF they keep buying this stuff then it is there own fault… Or people STOP paying for BS and the market goes away cause they loose the sell of new vehicles…

But I guess if you can afford a BMW you can afford to pay for the monthly fees, if not then you probable couldn’t truly afford the BMW to begin with…


I don’t know which version, maybe 11 is what they installed overnight, but they keep trying to get me to click to get all the features. I don’t want all their feature so the only option they give is to be reminded in three days. Jerks.

No. Those are mandated.

Not sure there’s any feature I’d pay a monthly/yearly subscription for.

The EA(Electronic Arts) model of business.
You can have a car that runs for free, but if you want to go anywhere you need to buy the “go anywhere” DLC, just $550/month.
Raining outside? Wiper DLC for $15/month
Too hot/cold? Just $75/month and you can have the AC/heater DLC
Want to go to the grocery store and buy more than 2 bags worth of groceries, you’ll need that “extra storage” DLC for only $150/month to have access to the trunk.
Dark outside? $25/month for headlight DLC $35/month for use of headlights AND high beams
Run out of gas/electric? That’s another $500/month for “fuel storage”(gas tank/EV battery) DLC


No different than paying for electricity for your home as you use it.

No, it’s like having to rent the wall switch to turn on the lights.


I actually thought they gave up on the idea due to the bad press but maybe not. My marketing professor came from ibm and had a lot of dysfunctional stories to tell. He’d have great fun with this one.

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