BMW is planning to move some features of its new cars to a subscription model, something it announced on Wednesday during a briefing for the press on the company’s digital plans.
It’s not an entirely new idea to the auto industry—Tesla has pioneered the idea of shipping vehicles with hardware that can be enabled at the time of purchase or later on for a fee. And BMW has done something similar in the past with infotainment features; for a while, if you wanted access to Apple CarPlay, you had to pay an $80 yearly subscription until the automaker abandoned that idea.
But those were for digital services—now the Bavarian carmaker has plans to apply that model to features like heated seats. BMW says that owners can “benefit in advance from the opportunity to try out the products for a trial period of one month, after which they can book the respective service for one or three years.” The company also says that it could allow the second owner of a BMW to activate features that the original purchaser declined.
In fact, BMW has already started implementing this idea in some markets, allowing software unlocking of features like adaptive cruise control or high-beam assist (in the United States, those options are usually standard equipment). Other features are more whimsical, like having a Hans Zimmer-designed sound package for your electric BMW or adaptive suspension for your M-car. Indeed, the company says that its forthcoming iNext will “expand the opportunities for personalization.”