Home » Let’s Dive Into The Subscription Services BMW Offers In America

Let’s Dive Into The Subscription Services BMW Offers In America

Bmw Ix

Well, well, well, look what we have here. BMW is trying out subscription services in America again by offering after-sale add-on features. This isn’t the first time BMW’s attempted such a thing, receiving strong backlash for making Apple CarPlay a subscription service back in 2018, eventually being forced to back down. If at first you don’t succeed, right? Anyway, MotorAuthority got hold of BMW’s list of U.S. subscription services and while small, it’s a bit of a dismaying look at the future of cars. If this microtransaction trend keeps up, you might eventually own a car with either dead tech or subscriptions needed to use built-in hardware. A bit scary, right?

Bmw Subscription Chart

Let’s start with the most contentious subscription option, remote start. What was once a simple fob-to-car function to warm up the engine from the comfort of your home or workplace or grocery store is now sold for $10 a month, $105 a year, $250 for three years, and $330 as a one-time fee. Notice the careful wording that this isn’t a lifetime subscription – 4G cellular service will eventually sunset just like 3G did, potentially leaving third- and fourth-owners in the lurch. Truthfully, I’ve always thought of remote start as bollocks. I’ve lived in some fairly cold places, and a minute or two of idle time before driving off gently is typically more than enough for coolant to start warming and for oil to stop being molasses. I can’t help but think of remote start as fairly needless, but those who must have it surely won’t be happy with this news.

BMW i4 eDrive35

Traffic camera alerts, on the other hand, do seem worth it. A $25 yearly fee sounds cheap compared to a speed camera ticket, and someone has to update the database. Sure, traffic camera alerts can be found on phone apps like Waze, but Waze isn’t great for planning on-route charging on an EV road trip. Plus, setting a DC fast charging station as a destination in the native navigation system preconditions the battery pack to accept faster charging. If you’re driving an EV and using native navigation to stay juiced-up on a road trip, speed camera alerts seem nice to have.

P90481996 Lowres The All New Bmw M2 S

Speaking of cameras, how about BMW’s Drive Recorder, a built-in dashcam for your Bavarian chariot? Charging a subscription for this feature seems ridiculous, as storage is still through the head unit, you still need to export clips from the car to USB, and functionality doesn’t seem flawless. While options of a $149 one-time fee, $99 three-year subscription, and $39 one-year subscription means it’s cheap, it still seems ridiculous to charge customers to use the feature when primary functionality is self-contained and runs on preexisting hardware.

Rounding out the list of subscription services, we get to Driving Assistant Plus with Stop & Go, which is only a subscription on the electric iX SUV. Think of it as a tax to pay for thinking square character lines over circular wheel arches are acceptable. Similarly, Parking Assistant Professional is currently only available as a subscription on well-equipped iX, 2023 X7, and 2023 7-Series models. On the iX, both are part of the $1,900 Driving Assistance Professional Plus package, yet cost $950 and $220 respectively as one-time options, a combined $25 a month, $260 a year, or $710 for three years. If the hardware’s there anyway, both the as-specced and the pay-as-you-go option seem excessive.

Bmwix subscription

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that most of BMW’s U.S. subscription services are digital peripherals and not physical features like heated seats, many are available as one-time payments, and lessees may see discounts through subscribing. That doesn’t mean many of these subscription services don’t suck in principle though. Let’s break things down into two categories to explain what I mean.

Features like traffic camera alerts are perfectly acceptable to offer on subscription as they require constant updates and aren’t wholly reliant on preexisting hardware. They are genuine services requiring support on the carmaker’s end, rather than simple features. However, microtransactions to use stuff your car already comes with is the sort of paywall I can’t get behind. These paywalls lock out capabilities that should be accessible if you already paid for the hardware. To take this to an extreme, imagine having a car with eight speakers but only four are enabled due to a software lockout. Sounds annoying, right? Plus, should the hardware break out of warranty, you are still responsible for repair costs even if you never subscribed to the feature (think of an error code that pops up on the dash or a fault in a different system that requires the one you’re not using to function).

As long as software as a service exists, automakers will continue to push microtransactions in the name of profit. It’s up to us to make sure that bad ones fail. Public outrage and crafty owners outfoxed BMW last time, so let’s see if car owners can go 2-0 against the company and separate the truly useful services from features that should be standard.

(Photo credits: BMW)


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36 Responses

  1. Subaru also has remote start via app as a subscription since (at least) the 2020 model year. You get some other things too (don’t even remember what they are, most people don’t need them). You can also get a conventional subscription-free separate fob, and some (like me) even use both, since neither is perfect (one has infinite range, the other doesn’t require cell coverage).

  2. “You will own nothing and you will like it.”

    I see the idea BMW is going for, I mean, for the guy leasing a car for a year or two it makes more sense to do subscriptions for features than pay the total cost if you know you’re gonna offload the car anyway. The flip side of that is that it’s utter bullshit to offer what should be built-in features as subscriptions.

  3. Jeebus TCF, is there a subscription you can buy so that your expensive luxury SUV doesn’t look like Bugs Bunny trying to drop a massive deuce?

  4. Minor quibble with the “remote start” function. Outside of 3 years when I lived in Florida, I would have KILLED for a car with remote start. Maybe cuz I finally have it now (in a ’22 BMW, no less) — I look back with huge regret for all the summers lived in the Chicago-area and could not afford/did not have it. Now as an old there aren’t many things better about winters here than getting inside an already-warmed car with a warm steering wheel. I haven’t taken my gloves out of my pockets when walking to or from the car yet.

  5. Christ, that bottom picture is the worst iteration of the new grill I’ve seen yet. It’s like a beaver is playing butler: he’s trying for haughty but not quite pulling it off

    1. Only today I saw my first example of the new grill driving on the road (I think it was a 3 series).
      It’s *very slightly* better looking in person than it is in pictures, but it’s still bloody ugly.

    1. Yeeeeeeep. I’m glad there are one-time fees that let you own the feature, but like, that’s the only option there really should be. Maybe offer a payment plan, sure, but once you’ve paid the amount the feature is worth, that feature should be yours. To keep. Permanently enabled. This weird subscription thing is just such an obvious consumer-hostile money grab that it’s unreal.

  6. BMW = Bite Me, Willi. I’m not paying for that crap and fully agree with Thomas. BS like this is why I never even considered a BMW when we went car shopping recently.

  7. At first, I thought the drive recorder was super reasonable for cloud storage. As a one-time activation fee, it’s fine, but the existence of a subscription makes me wonder if it could lose functionality due to a loss of connection or server issue at a point that it verifies you have that function. And that’s not okay.

    Remote start via app does require connectivity, but the price seems high and the existence of a one-time fee begs the question of what happens to people who paid for permanent access if the service is no longer maintained (say, because no one pays for a subscription and it doesn’t seem profitable). Edge case, but still a possibility.

    Driving assistant might make sense if it is getting updates. But I don’t know how much your parking assistant is going to be improved, given the much more limited parameters involved.

    And the traffic camera one is fine, as you point out. Assuming someone is actually updating things.

  8. It’s only a matter of time before someone hacks this shit and everyone gets everything for free. Piss off BMW. Every year your cars get shittier and uglier. Hard pass on anything that needs a paid subscription.

  9. Question on the remote start thing: Is it all remote start or just app-based remote start? Because my 2015 truck has a subscription service where you can lock/unlock/remote start/etc. via an app on your phone, but that stuff all still works from the key fob too. Given that cell service to the truck is required for the app version I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable for that to carry a monthly fee, but if it means they dropped the button from the key fob too then F that.

  10. “Our cars protected us, to us, they were pure freedom. They belonged to us.”
    -Arnold Schwarzenegger in that ridiculous BMW Dee commercial

    “Sorry. The video camera in your BMW doesn’t belong to you. It will not protect you unless you buy a subscription.”

  11. I think the subscription model is crap, but thankfully there’s nothing on that list I’d ever care to have. When they start coming for more non-networked feature, like heated seats or mirrors, then I’ll put up more of a stink.

    But about remote start

    One of the most common features discussed when subscription services come up is the remote start. I wonder how long that will continue to be a thing. Idling is illegal under varying conditions in a growing portion of the country. The rules are all a hodgepodge of different state wording, but 29 states have laws about it, and the writing is on the wall that federal-level regulation is coming. Maybe that’s the use case that makes sense to be monthly?

  12. BMW continues to do things to repel customers – this idea of subscriptions is one the most, if not THE most, eye-popping money grab I have ever seen. Add that to the fact that their cars are also repulsive, in just about every way.. when is someone going to take over that company who knows what they are doing? barf.

  13. Traffic camera alerts, on the other hand, do seem worth it. A $25 yearly fee sounds cheap compared to a speed camera ticket, and someone has to update the database.

    Or you could stick to the speed limit and not worry about the cameras.

    1. Or you could stick to the speed limit and not worry about the cameras.

      I’ve started doing this. I just changed the game I play when I drive somewhere. Instead of get there as fast as possible, it’s get there while using the brake as little as possible while driving precisely the speed limit or below; it’s a LIMIT after all. It’s kind of freeing to be honest; I’m not on high alert looking for cops.

    2. “Or you could stick to the speed limit and not worry about the cameras.”
      That’s asking a lot of anyone, but it’s REALLY asking a lot of BMW owners. Let’s just try to get them to use turn signals first.

  14. “Traffic camera alerts, on the other hand, do seem worth it. A $25 yearly fee sounds cheap compared to a speed camera ticket, and someone has to update the database.”

    Or, maybe just drive at reasonable speeds so you don’t have to fork over $25/year nor worry about tickets? Speed cameras are just municipal money grabbers anyway and their own style of BS, but on the other hand maybe not doing 50 in a 35 zone isn’t so bad either.

    1. Compared to the cost of a brand new BMW, charging $24 a year for something is basically a micro-transaction. It’s such a small amount that most people will shell-out without thinking, which is a good definition of a micro-transactions, and why they’re insidious.

    1. I know you’re trolling, but when a website starts off as free, and offers a premium service to raise capital, it’s not the same thing at all. If I’d already paid $65,000 to use The Autopian and now I’ve got to pile an additional $2,500 on top of that do do things like load pages faster, or reply to comments, then it’d be the same thing.

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