BMW has only just started offering an online subscription for seat heating and already hackers have announced plans help owners unlock the feature, which only works when paid for through BMW’s software.
BMW is testing a paid subscription for heated seats and a heated steering wheel, one of a growing number of software-enabled functions which are already built into cars at the factory, but which only work as part of a paid subscription.
High beam assist, which automatically dims the headlamps in oncoming traffic, is also available for monthly or annual payments. Another option is an artificial noise generator for electric vehicles.
Car owners in BMW’s home market in Europe pay €17 a month ($18 in US) to activate seat heating, while “lifetime” use costs €385.
But now the coding company Bimmer Tech says it wants to let owners activate the subscription-based seat heating for newer BMW models such as the BMW X1 and BMW 2 Series Active Tourer without a subscription.
The hackers’ aim is also to help users who buy a pre-owned car for which the previous owner bought the feature. Firms like Bimmer Tech have been offering their services for years in various forums like Ebay and Etsy.
In-car subscription services have been around for some 10 years but the recent move by BMW to charge customers for warm seats in winter has not gone down well.
“We always listen to our customers and look for ways to offer the features they want. As long as BMW allows seat heaters to be enabled, we may consider it,” Bimmer Tech’s Paul Smith told Vice magazine.
Experts said hacking the BMW features could prove to be challenging. In order to use them, the owner must log into their BMW ID when starting the vehicle or else unlock it with the correctly coded vehicle key.
The software subscriptions are a way for automakers to generate income in the lucrative aftersales area, and premium brands Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche all offer such features on demand.