German car giant BMW has been criticised after introducing a new model for premium car features that will see cars kitted out with top-line equipment that can only be "unlocked" with a monthly subscription.
BBC News reports that the Bavarian automotive kingpin's latest models will roll out of the factory with all of the top-tier kit such as heated seats, speed camera detection and automatic high beam sensors already installed. However, they will be locked away behind a software barrier that will only unlock the features after a user agrees to sign up for either a rolling subscription or a permanent access pass.
BMW's ConnectedDrive website offers free trials of features - which also include automatic cruise control, dash cam recording and heated steering wheels - on cars where the hardware has been "installed...during production, at no extra cost". Pricing ranges from £10 a month for a heated steering wheel and £15 a month for heated seats through to as much as £35 a month for the Driving Assistant Plus automatic cruise control.
Features can also be unlocked permanently with an "unlimited" option, which runs to as much as £750. BMW says the unlimited pass grants access to the feature "as long as the technical prerequisites are met for this vehicle".
A spokesperson for the car manufacturer told the BBC that the features can be purchased when ordering the car like any other option, meaning that the subscription can be bypassed. They also suggested that pre-installing the hardware for top-tier features could benefit second-hand car owners, who can add the features they want without modifying the car.
But the move has not been welcomed by some who believe the company is creating needless waste by installing features on cars that may never be used.
One Twitter user asked the company: "How does manufacturing redundant parts which may never be used (subscription only) fit in with your environmental policy?"
Another said: "Is @BMW for real? You’re gonna charge a subscription for heated seats? Like really? Next thing you know you’ll need a subscription for using the windshield wipers or blinkers on your car too. Tell me this is a joke."
BMW is not the first car manufacturer to ask people to part with money to unlock features in a car they already own. US electric car trendsetter Tesla began asking owners to pay to unlock its Autopilot self-driving features last year.
It might just be the start of another subscription model to worry your wallet - as if Netflix, Spotify and Disney+ weren't enough to juggle as is.