Car features as a subscription service are coming.

93Flareside

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Heated seats as a service? BMW wants to sell car features on demand

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2020/0...ice-bmw-wants-to-sell-car-features-on-demand/
So this is something I've discussed with @D-Fence about and I will disagree with some things, I'm not completely against it. HERE ME OUT.


During the new-to-me period of say 3-4 years of ownership, some items I can understand the monthly commitment HOWEVER, doing this for basically eternity just like what Tesla does? No way. That said, I see this as being easily hack-able later on. We think it won't be, but it will. Like how I've been able to unlock a few items on my Golf GTI such as, windows roll up/down via the keyless entry remote, or changing what the lights do when I press unlock at night. I see it as a similar thing where sure, it will be locked for people who don't know better, but the rest of us who figured out how to either get the correct dongle or know how to unlock the stuff ourselves will be able to get around it. Especially 10 years from now. There's no way BMW or Tesla will support such old vehicles.

I believe most of us "regulars" don't visit the forums as often and will share what we talked about. Know that we both read the Jalopnik article.

Myself: What are you thoughts on subscription based over-the-air software updates for BMW's? I'm not opposed to it, but it seems weird from a car company however! I totally get it from the business side. Money doesn't grow on trees. I'm reading through Jalopnik's "You're a retard if you buy a BMW with a subscription service" story. Personally, I think it's a bit silly to offer over the air updates outside of bug fixes. You want new features? theres a new car for that, want radar cruise control? spend the money or find a trim level with it already if buying used. I don't think we had such an outcry when say, a car someone just bought had a cassette player and not a CD player or one model has navi while the one I have doesn't, so why are we expecting new features now to be had for free? Just because its software? Disagree. I mean, if you want GPS maps to stay updated, you're buying new software files. My parents had a 2006 GMC Yukon XL Denali that had a GPS disc, do you want it to be upgraded? $200 please. Could you have torrented the files? sure, but try and get the write protection so that the radio would read the disc. That car also didn't have bluetooth but you could have paid for a cellular plan that had a specific number to call. Was anybody bitching and moaning that few years later cars had bluetooth? While I don't remember, it surely isn't the outcry we're getting today.

D-fence: Oh man, I read that Jalopnik article and it was so much full of shit, old man yelling at cloud. Fact is, people can still spec whatever they want from factory and it stays with car forever. The subscription thing is digital after sales. It allows you to try features or later upgrade your car as you want. For example, you can order adaptive LED in fall for the winter months. You specced the car and then realise you do much more motorway driving? Sure, buy adaptive cruise. My friend works in that segment and for example we started offering drive recorder (dash came Mode of our crash prevention cams) as digital option. The take rate especially in Asia was enormous. It also allows people to drive a much nicer car by speccing stuff later they couldn't afford when buying the car. Nice benefit of all of that is that in production you greatly reduce variants as more options become standard, they just get unlocked later. Funny side info: Tesla went the cheap way and already got hacked by a box you plug into the car, we are doing it much more complicated and chances are slimmer a Russian guy in his basement will figure out how to unlock stuff.
 

gaasc

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So they learned nothing from that time they wanted Carplay to be a service.
 

93Flareside

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So they learned nothing from that time they wanted Carplay to be a service.
This is a different thing. What I'm seeing from @D-Fence's explanation is, the OEM builds a top trim level car, but you pay for what you want, so it's just like buying a base, or mid trim level. Later on you go "I want radar cruise control for a trip" so you pay for that for the moment instead of perhaps renting a car with it already and blowing money on a car you don't own.
 

narf

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I'd be very interested - for tax reasons :shifty:

I pay income tax on my company car, based off its list price. If moving features to a subscriptions lowers its list price but still gets me the features, would it lower my taxable amount? :grin:
 

Matt2000

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I'm not surprised as I'm aware that manufacturers have been building cars with everything installed and disabled for years. I do like the idea of only paying for things like heated seats for the winter months, it probably wouldn't be cheaper for most people over the ownership of the car though but if you can play the system to your benefit then brilliant.

I saw the hacked Tesla unlock, it was bound to happen at some point but I suspect that they can spot it and will probably disable supercharging if they do, like they would with a salvage car.
 

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Am I the only one who sees buying a subscription to turn on the AC as a bad thing?

This has far reaching consequences beyond "on-demand heated seats" - it calls into question the idea of ownership. Who actually owns your car and can decide what you can do with it? This is a shot directly at the aftermarket, fix your car with non-OEM parts? No more subscription support. Modify your car? Remotely brick your infotainment and climate control.

This is a big problem in the tractor industry, John Deere will sell you the hardware, but maintain that they are only licensing you to use the software that runs it. Since the software runs everything, they have effectively held entire farms hostage over who changed the oil in the tractor last. Farmers have turned to hackers to "jailbreak" their tractors and some have had to learn to program just so they can plow their fields. Do we really believe that car companies will not do the same thing?

The other problem is one of age and cost. My car was made 14 years ago, I don't want to continue to pay to use features I've long since purchased. Imagine a company like Ford, that is pushing for a new Cash For Clunkers plan (the one that destroyed the used car market and drove up used car prices), decides they want to take their used cars off the road and force buyers into new vehicles. All they need to do is "end support" for vehicles after a certain time. Sure, the car might still work, but is anyone going to buy a car with no AC, no radio, and no other features that work?

This might be a nice little benefit for those of you in the UK and EU with company cars, but company vehicles aren't typically a thing in the US and I don't trust car manufactures to have this level of control and not use it for their own gain at the expense of the owner.
 

Adamar

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Mercedes has gone down this path as well. Basically everything that is related to the entertainment is offered as a DLC and merely requires you to fork over money w/o any physical intervention such as replacing a radio or display.

Colleague and I both took the A-class berline as a company car. He took the premium+ package for the better headlights and heated seats, while i chose the DAB+ radio and some package for Android Auto.

Although I can't upgrade to get the better seats and headlights, he can go to the Mercedes web store and buy a DLC that unlocks Android Auto, DAB+ radio and some other stuff that nobody actually needs.
 

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Am I the only one who sees buying a subscription to turn on the AC as a bad thing?
No, you're not.
I am a bit surprised how everyone just goes "Sure! I am fine having something installed in the car that I can't use unless I pay for it."

So, the company spent the money purchasing the parts and installing it but you can only use it unless you paid...I can see how they can save money by just standardizing the manufacture process, but this still sounds stupid.

GPS service is different @93Flareside. You get updates and it's a network that has a maintenance cost, so I see it as justifiable.
If the heated seats in my BMW fail 15 years from now and the fact that I was paying for them means BMW will fix it for free, since it's a service they are providing, THEN I can see some benefit for the customer.


EDIT:

Let me finish with a joke, to lighten up things:


Caterham owners read that and went "Features? What is that?"
 

93Flareside

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No, you're not.
I am a bit surprised how everyone just goes "Sure! I am fine having something installed in the car that I can't use unless I pay for it."

So, the company spent the money purchasing the parts and installing it but you can only use it unless you paid...I can see how they can save money by just standardizing the manufacture process, but this still sounds stupid.

GPS service is different @93Flareside. You get updates and it's a network that has a maintenance cost, so I see it as justifiable.
If the heated seats in my BMW fail 15 years from now and the fact that I was paying for them means BMW will fix it for free, since it's a service they are providing, THEN I can see some benefit for the customer.
Satellite radio, GM's OnStar, I get your point, but we've had some of this already. I do wonder if the subscription means they will fix it for free, seems most reports I have found don't talk about that aspect.
 

gaasc

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Am I the only one who sees buying a subscription to turn on the AC as a bad thing?
Far from it. And the arguments in favor around here seem to be "Well, this also means that you will be able to hack new features into your car like you can do with VAG-COM" completely ignoring that manufacturers will likely prevent that being so easy the second they realize that they are losing subscription service revenue. I unfortunately cannot abide any system in which the advantages hinge rather heavily on a corporation acting out of the goodness of their hearts.

This is before the question of ownership (I have bought a used car. I now have to pay whatever the dealer wishes me to pay for climate control or install random, untested software from a questionable source to the thing hauling me at triple digit speeds down the highway.) and the subtle increase of the cost in cars. Economies of scale can only take you so far. and I am sure manufacturers will want to keep a profit margin even if you decide you will subscribe to nothing (otherwise the argument hinges once again on manufacturers deciding they do not want to make money).

OTA updates are nice now that cars have enough computer power to shame some desktops. Having a manufacturer decide that you need to keep paying them forever for things already built into the thing you own isn't. Though this may be the shot in the arm right-to-repair needs to get mainstream attention when people realize they are now stuck in a cozy relationship with their dealer forever. And that the dealer can now charge whatever they want because where else are you going to go? Then you just have to expect politicians to do the right thing, as they always do.
 

Blind_Io

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Satellite radio, GM's OnStar, I get your point, but we've had some of this already. I do wonder if the subscription means they will fix it for free, seems most reports I have found don't talk about that aspect.
Satellite radio is not just attached to the car, you can get a satellite radio for your home and use the same account. Also, the car maker is not providing the satellite radio service - they provide the hardware to receive the signal - Sirius or whomever is the one you are buying from and include a "free trial" with the purchase of the car. A comparison would be if I subscribe to Hot Ass, which will heat any seat I happen plonk my cheeks on, including my car's seat.

OnStar's primary goal is to gather data, it's also an excuse to keep the cars connected to GM regardless of whether or not you pay for the additional services like remote access to the vehicle. Plus, OnStar is technically a GM subsidiary, so you are paying a company owned by GM, not GM itself. Plus, you can add OnStar to pretty much any vehicle or use it as a phone app, it won't have all the features of the GM integrated system, but it can be done.
 
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GRtak

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This is absurd, end of story. The car either has a piece of equipment, or it does not. This is another attempt to maximize profits, and it smells like a skunk dipped in shit.
 

DanRoM

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I am not even completely fine with hardware built into the car for features that are not usable - because of the excess weight.
Apart from that, I can understand and respect the reduction of production complexity. But that has to lead to "pay for it and get it unlocked forever", not to a subscription or even worse, a pay per use. That will end up in people being in situations where a feature would be very useful, but not available because they forgot to renew their subscription, or because the next paycheck is still a few days away, etc. Or imagine a pay per use model that makes you pay each time you use the awesome Matrix LED headlights magic high-beam, so people will think every time before they use such a safety-relevant feature.
 

Matt2000

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I understand if you want to keep a car for a long time that you would be unhappy with paying for the service for all those years, you may well be paying more than the fixed price would be. Or you may not. You would expect that at this point where ICE is frankly software only that it is kept up to date and continues to be supported (like the Adobe software I pay for). However, Joe Public just don't buy cars to keep now, for a 4 year leaser you could end up spending less on extra features than ticking the box and paying a lump sum.

Hardware wise, it's hard to say but who honestly replaces ICE and things like heated seats and control modules with aftermarket on new cars now? It's impossible in most cases and as I've said before most cars have all the hardware installed. For this specifically, I think the tractor argument is irrelevant as that's not what they're talking about and cars just don't compare to the infinitely complex automated systems in farm machinery. I'll concede that it could be a slippery slope but I'm struggling to think of instances where changing parts fit in with this.

I do wonder how this would affect the price of used cars though, when every car is the same equipment-wise depending on what you pay for as the new owner.
Think of this scenario, you're looking for a used generic car - a Golf :razz:. You find a nice one but it's currently missing cruise control because the tight arse who bought it didn't pay for it. You currently would have to look elsewhere or pay multiple thousands of currency to have it enabled (assuming the hardware is already installed as mentioned earlier), ignoring the option of 'hacking' because in a car produced today this could already come back to bite you with the dealer. We're either past the point of easy hacking or on the edge of it.

I'm not saying it's good to be going this way, but it certainly could benefit you personally.

This is absurd, end of story. The car either has a piece of equipment, or it does not. This is another attempt to maximize profits, and it smells like a skunk dipped in shit.
What's your opinion on BMW using the same engine but with different tunes at different price points? They've been doing this for years, in any new car you're already carrying around bits that are turned off.
 

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Car display: *Dingdong* Hello lip, you haven't used your A/C for some time, do you want it to be activated YES/NO, if YES the first hour will be 1 USD, every additional hour will be 1.50 USD, every further use of the ON/OFF switch will cost another 0.50 USD inside the next 24hrs. If activated, the minimum use of the A/C is 2hrs. The transaction charge is 0,9%. DO YOU WANT THE A/C TO BE ACTIVATED? YES/NO. This message will be displayed every 30min for the next 8hrs. - Enjoy our service. - Please be reminded, that if you don't use the A/C inside the next 24hrs, there is a further long-pause-reactivation charge of 1 USD the next time the A/C is used. DO YOU WANT THE A/C TO BE ACTIVATED? YES/NO.

Read: Microtransactions are big business. It's intransparent, it adds up quickly, it binds the custumer to be loyal to a monopol, and it gives the provider detailed data.
 

GRtak

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What's your opinion on BMW using the same engine but with different tunes at different price points? They've been doing this for years, in any new car you're already carrying around bits that are turned off.

Are you saying that it is not a different head or a cam in the engine, just an adjustment within the computer? If that is the case, no, fuck BMW. I haven't seen much from them I would want to own anyway.

By the way, I was not happy to see this sort of thing happen to software over the last 20ish years. I was not happy the first time I tried to play a game on my 360 when I was away from an internet connection and not to be able to play I game I bought. This was not even multi-player, just me wanting to run a mission and not being able to play, or save if it would let you play. Rockstar, I am looking at you!
 

gaasc

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Are you saying that it is not a different head or a cam in the engine, just an adjustment within the computer? If that is the case, no, fuck BMW. I haven't seen much from them I would want to own anyway.
Yes. There is a reasoned argument to be done there and BMW are not the only manufacturer doing it. The idea being that you just make the one engine and sell it in different stages of tune saves on development, engineering, manufacturing, and, depending on location, regulation costs.

Here's the thing, you only pay for that ONCE. and if you want to get a tune down the line to make your 320 a 325 then you can have a chip or a tune installed. It is not 149.99/year for the heater/lights/four-zone climate control combo.

Full disclosure, like GR, SaaS becomes "Not getting my money as a service" to me.
 
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