How do you feel about [Fill in the Blank] As A Service? It’s one thing to pay developers for updates to software that they’ve spent time and effort to improve. However, it’s quite another to essentially pay to unlock features that your bike (or car) already has—but they’re just stuck behind what’s effectively a software paywall.
BMW has been making the news in automotive circles in mid-July, 2022, because it’s apparently charging monthly subscription fees for heated seats and steering wheels in some markets. The OEM’s digital stores in Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, and the United Kingdom now offer drivers choices between monthly, yearly, unlimited, and three-year subscription options to keep yourself warm and toasty in the winter.
Now, heated seats and grips can be a game-changer on bikes. Most riders (and drivers, if it comes down to it), can probably understand paying an extra fee to get such a feature when they go to buy the bike—but a subscription fee? It’s not a streaming service, it’s heating elements and electricity—both of which are already in your car. The same would be true on bikes, and it would likely seem inherently offensive to most riders for the same reason.
Since we’re RideApart, the question we naturally wondered is, could something like this become a thing with bikes? We’ve already seen OEMs take this approach with more racing-oriented bikes, where you have to pay an extra fee to unlock track modes.
In November, 2021, Zero Motorcycles announced its new upgrade marketplace, through which riders can pay for enhanced range and performance options at will. It’s not a common thing in the bike world as of July 13, 2022—but then, it also didn’t used to be a thing in other segments, either. We won’t like it at all if it happens, but it certainly doesn’t seem impossible.
In 2022, we’re used to paying subscriptions for things like heat, water, electricity, and telephone service. It’s easier to mentally justify those things because they all involve something flowing from the outside world to wherever you’re located. Unless you burn fuel for heat, collect and purify your own water, and/or generate all your own electricity using solar panels, those things are produced and provided to you by outside companies on a regular basis. It’s not difficult to understand how those could be reasonable subscription services.
Heated seats, though? No. Just, no.