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Opinion: if you have to 'subscribe' to use BMW's heated seats, why not the brakes too?

BMW’s pay-per-month plan has caused a storm...

Published: 24 Oct 2022

“BMW is now selling subscriptions for heated seats in a number of countries. [...] A monthly subscription costs roughly $18, with options to subscribe for a year ($180), three years ($300), or pay for “unlimited” access for $415...” The Verge, July 2022

Morning Simon! Jane from the Executive Subscriptions team here, how are you today?

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Very well too, thanks. Now, it’s coming up to three years since you bought your car. So I’m just calling to check. From next month onwards, would you like your brakes to continue working?

You would? That’s great news. In which case, I’ll get you set up with an ongoing subscription to our Brake Functionality service. It’s 20 pounds a month, or you can pay annually and save—

No no, calm down Simon. I can assure you, nothing wrong with your brakes. They will continue to work perfectly. For the next two weeks. After which point, as things stand, they will not.

Don’t be daft, Simon. We’re not going to come round and physically remove the brakes from your car. We’re not insane! It’s simply that, as of next month, your fully functional, safe brakes will cease to be operated by your brake pedal. That’s the joy of these modern drive-by-wire systems, Simon.

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Incredibly dangerous, you say? Well, that depends what you’re planning on doing with your car. In the Executive Subscriptions team, we understand that every customer is different, and we don’t want you paying for features you’ll never make use of! If you live in, say, the Sahara, no point in coughing up for heated seats. And if you’re planning on using your car as, say, an ornamental terrapin house, why would you need a functioning brake pedal?

You assumed the brakes would continue working for the lifetime of the car? That’s an adorably old-fashioned view, Simon. Are you still buying your music on cassette from the local Woolworths? Or do you have a Spotify account? You do? And if you stopped paying Spotify, do you assume they’d continue giving you all that adless music for free? You can say “in no way analogous” as many times as you like, Simon, but I can assure you it’s right there in your contract. Page 237.

Did you not question why your car was quite so cheap up front? Think of it as... us helping to spread the financial burden of vehicle ownership. If 20 pounds a month sounds a bit steep, I can offer you our Basic Braking Function package? For just nine pounds a month, we’ll make your front-left brake operational between the hours of 8pm and 5am. How does that sound?

You’ll go for the full Executive Braking Function package? Yes, ‘begrudgingly’, I’ll note that. Excellent choice, I’ll get that processed for you right away. And while I’ve got you on the line, Simon. Going forward, do you plan to continue using your steering wheel?

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