For some years now, a business model has been consolidated in many areas that conceives products as a service. Namely, it seems that we do not buy something to own it and enjoy it how, when and where we want, but these objects become part of a kind of asset that is still controlled by the company that has sold it to us and only gives us access to a certain benefit after a monthly payment of a few euros.
Payment for service reaches cars
We cannot exactly pinpoint a moment in which the market changed in that direction, but if we did, we would surely place that moment in the day that it was possible to pay and convert that expense into a newspaper from the mobile phone. With just two clicks on the phone screen we could already subscribe to a streaming platform, or choose options within the same service to customize the benefits for which we want to pay month by month.
So it was clear that when our car reached the territory of smartphones something like this could happen. And in fact it is happening. So much so that it has left us with such controversial decisions by companies like Tesla, which will launch a monthly subscription for the autonomous driving pack when it launches commercially. Or BMW (in the UK), where we have learned that he wants to charge the users of his cars an amount close to 18 euros per month for the activation and use of the heated seats of those who did not pay for the pack when they bought it new. This is the case of the 2014 BMW M4.
Movements like this mean that brands don’t mind selling us a car with extras installed, but deactivated, which have a significant cost in their manufacture if, on the horizon, the possibility of charging us for making use of them appears. So the doors are opened to a business that can bring important benefits. Or not?
The reaction of the users arrives
But of course, before practices like this, some users of vehicles from brands such as BMW, Volkswagen or Audi have decided to skip those plans and rebel to activate all the functions by resorting to services that do the same as the official dealers but for a much lower price. At the end of the day, we are not talking about investing money in extra components or systems (which cost their own), but about activating the ones we have installed and that the manufacturer has put there despite the fact that we did not request them at the time.
For example, there are users who opt for this activation (pirate?) away from the official brand services and can, in the case of some BMW models, activate CarPlay and voice commands in their car for just 48 euros. Much less than what they are going to ask at an official dealer.
Cars, with their operating systems and intelligent functions, have become a kind of mobile phone where you can put on and take off whatever you want on demand: not only activate heated seats, but also improve sat nav and the accuracy of the maps, allowing the TV to play content when driving on the road (something that is strictly prohibited) or driving aids such as speed management, lane following, etc. are put into operation without having to pay what he asks, in this case, BMW.
What seems clear is that in the next few years it will be decided if cars become a service or not. And users who don’t quite agree with that will always find a way around those protections. At the end of the day we are talking about software and where there is a program, there is a pirate willing to break it. And in that it seems that many drivers of brands like BMW are.