BMW’s increased focus on microtransactions became apparent in 2020 after it introduced the BMW Operating System 7 which featured the (then) new BMW ConnectedDrive Store. This was basically the AppStore equivalent for BMW cars — an online store — from which buyers could download and “buy” (and then enable) additional features and capabilities on a car they already own.
While the ConnectDrive Store did make it to the U.S. as well, BMW primarily used it to enable a dash cam feature as well as open up the BMW Remote Engine Start function on supported vehicles in the country. As previously mentioned, BMW hid several other features — including the controversial heated sets feature — in other countries.
BMW is not the only prominent automaker exploring microtransactions and paywalled features as a potential revenue stream. Tesla also faced customer backlash for initially limiting a 75 kWh battery to 60 kWh and requiring an additional fee to “unlock” the performance through a software update. Volkswagen has likewise hinted at the possibility of placing its driverless car feature behind a subscription paywall. While recent events suggest that customer resistance may deter companies from adopting such consumer-unfriendly practices, the automotive industry may still be heading towards a future where microtransactions on “connected” cars become commonplace.