BMW is bringing an unpopular service to the US, locking features behind a subscription fee despite vehicles already being equipped with them.
Automakers have been looking for ways to make even more money off of their customers and subscription services have — unfortunately — been the option of choice. While a subscription is understandable for a service that requires ongoing maintenance and updates, such as mapping software and satellite radio, automakers are beginning to charge subscriptions to unlock hardware features that are already built into the vehicle.
According to Motor Authority, BMW is bringing the business model to the US after first rolling it out overseas. Remote engine start is one such example of a subscription feature, costing users $10 per month for access. A one-year subscription costs $105, three years $250, and lifetime access costs $300.
While its nice that BMW is offering a lifetime option, it’s only a good deal if the company doesn’t also charge for the feature upfront. Charging for the feature upfront and then charging a monthly fee smacks of nothing but an unmitigated attempt to nickel-and-dime customers.
New Jersey lawmakers seem to agree, introducing a bill that would make subscription services illegal for anything that isn’t a true ongoing service. In other words, charging a fee simply to unlock existing features would not be allowed.
Assemblymen Paul Moriarty and Joe Danielsen outline their goals:
This bill prohibits a motor vehicle dealer or manufacturer of motor vehicles sold in this State from offering to a consumer a subscription service for any motor vehicle feature that utilizes components and hardware already installed on the motor vehicle at the time of the vehicle’s purchase or lease; and would function after activation without ongoing expense to the dealer, manufacturer, or third-party service provider. The provisions of this bill do not apply to any third-party service provider that offers features such as satellite radio or in-car Wi-Fi.
Hopefully more jurisdictions pass similar legislation and prevent automakers from preying on their customers.