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BMW explores in-car subscriptions for smart, connected services

The automaker is set to offer optional upgrades for smart vehicle owners in a bid to generate recurring revenue.
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Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributor on

When we purchase a new car in today's market, it is often the case that you can choose to add a personal touch for an additional fee: seat warmers, a particular color, wheel rims, and more. 

However, once the car leaves the showroom and is in a customer's hands, beyond repairs or, perhaps, a rare upgrade, there is little room for manufacturers to generate extra revenue from a sale. 

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With the arrival of mobile solutions, the Internet of Things (IoT), and in-car connectivity, however, the game changed -- and the vehicle industry is now able to capitalize on the same subscription-based models that others, such as streaming content providers, are already shifting to. 

BMW appears to be keen to cash in on this change in consumer trends. This week, the automaker announced a set of new services in tandem with its upgraded vehicle operating system, OS version 7, including what could become subscription-based bolt-ons for owners. 

While there are no concrete details on how subscriptions will work, purchases will be made via the BMW ConnectedDrive store. 

"BMW already offers its customers digital services and additional vehicle functions in the form of digital after-sales, some of which are deeply embedded in the vehicle's software," BMW says. "In the US, BMW Drive Recorder is offered through a pilot program. In the near future, additional functions will be added that can access the vehicle's existing hardware and software, such as certain comfort functions or driver assistance systems."

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The automaker says that at the point of manufacture, the hardware and software will be future-proof, allowing customers to pick out new features if they wish which are delivered to their cars via remote software upgrades.

As reported by Auto Blog, this could include heated seats, driver assistance solutions, or cruise control. 

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While this has the possibility of increasing flexibility and customization for customers -- such as only signing up for heated seating during the winter months -- paying for additional services after the initial outlay of a new vehicle might not be to everyone's taste. 

This is not the first foray into subscription-based offerings that BMW has made, however. As noted by Engadget, in 2019, the automaker tried to impose an annual fee of $80 for vehicle owners to use Apple CarPlay, an initiative quickly scrapped due to customer complaints. 

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