BMW's $18 seat warmer subscription gets iced

Originally published at: BMW's $18 seat warmer subscription gets iced | Boing Boing


People feel that they paid double – which was actually not true,

How, specifically, is this not true? Were seats not included in the base model and I have to rent them on a monthly basis? Am I accessing another energy source independent of the vehicle in order to power the heater?

Please elaborate.


No, reality is reality. If a customer pays for a car that includes seats that physically get warm via an electronic control, then that’s an ‘option’ that was in reality paid for the moment the car was driven off the dealer lot. The company’s desire to monetize the ‘activation’ of this device is absolutely going to receive pushback by consumers and rightfully so.

The only ‘perception’ here is the boneheaded idea that BMW can double charge for ‘activation services’ via software when a $2 rocker switch is all that’s required.


I’m going to sound like a boomer here but I liked the days when cars has oil dipsticks, transmission fluid dipsticks, a spare tire and no subscription fees.


Completely agree. It’s not like there are virtual heating coils in the seats.

Makes you wonder what’s behind the dashboard dummy panels that replace switches for options people didn’t buy.


I don’t own my car. It’s on a monthly subscription which includes insurance, servicing, charging (on included networks) and everything. It’s an increasingly popular way to access a vehicle.

You’ll make me pay for my already installed seat heaters when you pry them from my cold, dead ass!

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They’re doing 3D head-tracking interface projection across the windscreen to make sure your indicators are always visible rather than stuck on the dash.

It’s remarkable that the same two approaches exist in the same company.


Are these not a thing anymore? My 2019 Subaru has all of these, even a full-size spare. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that some manufacturers are going solely with sensor-only readings and service-only fluid, though.

Seriously, these would instantly disqualify a car for me. I don’t change my own oil because of the mess and disposal hassle, but I do check my oil before any trip over an hour and repair my own brakes, mostly just because I’m capable and paying someone $95+/hr for a simple job is just not something I can stomach. I had a recent quote for brakes that were $1000! This included $215 rotors (which is outrageous for a non-performance car). When I pointed out that the rotors were absolutely fine (completely silver, no gouges or tracks), they said “well we replace the rotors at the same time because otherwise you don’t get the warranty on the pads.” So a $215 part to access a warranty for a $50 part that never fails? No thanks. If we get to the point I can’t do basic service I’m just going to buy used, I guess.


There was a car several years ago that you couldn’t even open the hood. Trying to recall what it was.


Not true in the sense that they didn’t pay for the ‘Heated Seats’ option when they bought the car (if I remember correctly from when this story first came out), but its too much of a hassle to make heating and non-heating seats, so the heated seats are in every car. If you didn’t pay up front you could subscribe to turning them on.

Reminds me of the video card hacks, back when I was (amateurishly) making my own PCs, when the $130 card was exactly the same as the $650 card, but one section of the breadboard on the cheaper version was isolated by rubbing off part of the wiring. Hackers would buy the cheap card and reconnect the break with a simple graphite pencil line and unlock the full power.

I suppose that a BMW owner could have figured out a way to supply power to the built in heating unit, without subscribing. I’m guessing that now BMW can just not make heating optional, or continue putting in the same seats but now without an option to turn them on - or you’d have to pay some one-time unlock at the dealer or something.

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If it has a CVT it does not have a transmission dipstick. Those are rather complicated to deal with as it is for fluid changes so the lack of a dipstick doesn’t matter much.

My 2016 manual Mazda 6 only has a fill port for transmission fluid…when it runs out it is full. Most of the Subaru differentials are similar.

I will agree that all ICE engines should have an oil dipstick, even if it has a sensor.


Many Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Ford, Cadillac, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Mazda models are going without dipsticks, relying instead on an electronic sensor. I’m in the same boat as you though; I always do a fluids check before a road trip. Lack of a dipstick is a deal-breaker for me. A lot of manufacturers are getting rid of spare tires and selling cars with a can of Fix-a-Flat and a portable air pump instead. Useless in the event of a blowout or sidewall puncture.


“… I’ll tell you what’s true and what’s not, that’s why”

I don’t necessarily agree with his general economic predictions and he does ramble but this guy’s main idea is that cars and their nonsensical shittiness these days (like a broken taillight leading to a $5000 repair bill) is going to lead to a heyday of The Mechanic, when people will be paying them all kinds of money to retrofit simpler systems into modern cars.


Yeah, totally… I mean, I totally thought of that before posting.

Awkward Schitts Creek GIF by CBC


Most of the time the wiring harness is there for things like fog lights and electric seat controls but they’re just terminated somewhere behind the dash because the features are not physically installed in the car. Looks like BMW puts the same warming-capable seats in regardless then disables the warmer functionality via software unless the customer pays for the option.

Back when CD changers were the hot thing I managed to find the right OEM model disk changer for my car on eBay and successfully installed it under the seat just like the package that came from the factory. I think the dealer was charging something like $1000 bucks at the time and I got it t done myself for around $150 and it just plugged straight into the existing harness.


It seems pretty common for companies to have both talented people dedicated to whatever it is they do and myopic MBA types who would happily shiv a basket of puppies if they thought it would make the line go up.

The bad news seems to be RE: which of the two groups has a habit of eventually winning internal battles that shape the final product.


Or run flats.
I go back and forth between hating them and not. They don’t ride as well as traditional tires and they are more expensive to replace (though technically, you could risk it and not replace them with run flats) HOWEVER, my wife got a very bad puncture one day on her way to work. She would have absolutely had to pull over on the freeway where it happened if she didn’t have them. She was able to drive the rest of the way to work and she called roadside. They flatbedded her car from her office to get the tire replaced.


I recall the Audi A2 had that “feature”. There are probably more models out there.