from the you-no-longer-own-the-things-you-buy dept
Earlier this month BMW took ample heat for its plans to turn heated seats into a costly $18 per month subscription in numerous countries. As we noted at the time, BMW is already including the hardware in new cars and adjusting the sale price accordingly. So it’s effectively charging users a new, recurring fee to enable technology that already exists in the car and consumers already paid for.
The move portends a rather idiotic and expensive future for consumers, and hackers and tinkerers aren’t having it. Grey market hackers have already been fiddling with BMW systems for years, providing users greater control over things they already own. And they’re more than ready to begin meeting customer demand for a way to bypass BMW’s dumb, greedy idea:
“We’re always listening to our customers and finding ways to offer the features they’re looking for. As long as BMW makes it possible to activate heated seats, we can look at offering it. If BMW doesn’t allow it, then the same feature could be added with a hardware retrofit, so in the end the driver is always going to be able to get what they want,” Paul Smith, content marketing specialist at Bimmer Tech, a BMW coding firm, told Motherboard in an email.
BMW has a history of claiming that any kind of tinkering invalidates a user’s warranty. Since the seat heating tech already exists in the car that users have paid for, claims that enabling it violates warranties could result in BMW running afoul of the FTC’s new crackdown on right to repair violations.
For its part, BMW continues to double down on the delusion that charging people extra (in perpetuity) for something they already own and paid for is somehow a wonderful value equation:
“The ConnectedDrive Store in the UK offers customers the opportunity to add selected features which they did not order when the vehicle was built … This functionality is particularly useful for secondary owners, as they now have the opportunity to add features which the original owner did not choose … Drivers can also experiment with a feature by activating a short-term trial before committing to a full purchase.”
The heated seat subscription option is part of the company’s “Connected Drive” program, and is already reality in Korea, the UK, New Zealand, Germany, and South Africa. It hasn’t come to the U.S. yet, and the recent backlash likely has the company rethinking that expansion.