‘BMW Charging for Heated Seats’

On July 12 2022, Twitter user Joe Pompliano tweeted about vehicle manufacturer BMW charging for heated seats in a subscription model:

In the tweet, Pompliano described subscription options as “microtransaction hell.” He asserted that the option would cost $18 a month, or $180 per year.

Fact Check

Claim: BMW introduced a subscription model for heated seats, with monthly and yearly pricing tiers.

Description: The claim suggests that the vehicle manufacturer BMW has introduced a subscription model for heated seats, charging monthly and yearly fees for the use of this feature.

Rating: Decontextualized

Rating Explanation: The claim is found to be true but ‘decontextualized’. It’s accurate that BMW is charging for heated seats in a subscription model, but this currently applies mainly to markets in South Korea, the UK, Germany, New Zealand, and South Africa. There isn’t clear information on when or if this model will be introduced in North America.

A popular post to Reddit’s r/technology on the same date generated a long discussion about vehicle options in a subscription model:

One commenter began calculating whether limiting a subscription to the coldest months of the year could represent a cost savings, to which someone else replied:

Let me get this straight, you think a multi billion dollar company is gonna toss those heated seat components in there for free then only charge for them as a subscription?

You are paying for the components twice now. Zero chance the cost of the heated seats is not included in the overall cost of the vehicle.

Its double dipping. Its anti consumer. Math it however you want. You pay twice, once for the component, and another for the software unlock.

Another user mused:

Or you shouldn’t be paying anything at all for permission to use the seats that are already present in the car that you’re supposed to own. This isn’t some service, there are no servers costing them money to keep your seats warming.

A second r/technology post from July 13 2022 had a fraction of the other’s engagement; its title suggested that the claim was actually not accurate:

Both Pompliano (in a threaded tweet) and the more popular Reddit thread linked to a July 12 2022 article by technology news site The Verge, “BMW starts selling heated seat subscriptions for $18 a month,” subtitled “The auto industry is racing towards a future full of microtransactions.” Its first few paragraphs explained:

BMW is now selling subscriptions for heated seats in a number of countries — the latest example of the company’s adoption of microtransactions for high-end car features.

A monthly subscription to heat your BMW’s front seats costs roughly $18, with options to subscribe for a year ($180), three years ($300), or pay for “unlimited” access for $415.

It’s not clear exactly when BMW started offering this feature as a subscription, or in which countries, but a number of outlets this week [of July 11 2022] reported spotting its launch in South Korea.

BMW has slowly been putting features behind subscriptions since 2020, and heated seats subs are now available in BMW’s digital stores in countries including the UK, Germany, New Zealand, and South Africa. It doesn’t, however, seem to be an option in the US — yet.

The July 13 2022 r/technology thread linked to a July 12 2022 piece by rival technology news outlet Ars Technica. In “No, BMW is not making heated seats a subscription for US cars,” it reported:

If there’s a topic guaranteed to get rage clicks, it’s the one about BMW making some of its car options available as a subscription rather than a one-time purchase. That story is doing the rounds again today after news that the Bavarian automaker is at it again.

“BMW starts selling heated seat subscriptions for $18 a month” declares one headline; “BMW Makes Heated Seats an $18/Month Subscription Service—Again” reads another. However, you’d have to read past the headlines and well into the bodies of the articles to find out that, actually, the automaker has no public plans to bring this subscription model here to the US market and that it’s happening in South Korea.

In its reporting, Ars Technica described earlier attempts by auto manufacturers to introduce subscription based options. The outlet said that “BMW has also said [a subscription to options] is a way for the second owner of a car to benefit from features that the original owner chose not to purchase.”

At the end of the excerpt from The Verge, the outlet noted that BMW’s heated seats subscription did not “seem to be an option in the US — yet.” Likewise, the final sentence of Ars Technica’s rebuttal stated:

So let’s be thankful that BMW North America isn’t subscribing to this particular business model. Yet.

Although Ars Technica’s coverage hinged on regionality (that the subscription based options were spotted in specific markets), neither the tweet nor the initial Reddit thread implied the claim was specific to the United States; The Verge’s piece referenced the specific markets at the beginning of its reporting. That said, the claim typically circulated without additional detail about whether (or when) it might be true for American car buyers.

A viral tweet and Reddit thread on July 12 2022 suggested that vehicle manufacturer BMW was charging subscription fees ($18 monthly or $180 annually) for heated seats. An article by The Verge cited both times noted that the news primarily applied to South Korea. Although the claim was not inaccurate, region-specific details were often absent in social media discourse. Finally, both The Verge and Ars Technica acknowledged that BMW’s subscription heated seats had not been introduced in North America “yet.”