BMW unveils radical plan to offer optional equipment on a subscription-based service, but hackers could take advantage.
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BMW has announced a radical plan to make some vehicle options available by subscription rather than paying for them up front.

Miss your monthly subscription payment, and optional extras such as heated seats or voice control – as examples, because the exact options are yet to be listed – will suddenly stop working, because the car will be linked to BMW via wifi or a SIM card.

BMW says the idea allows owners to customise their cars, only paying for technology as they use it.

In the announcement, BMW states: "Additional functions will be added that can access the vehicle's existing hardware and software, such as certain comfort functions or driver assistance systems."

This isn't the first time the German car maker has floated the idea of having customers pay as they go.

In 2018 BMW announced it would charge customers to use Apple CarPlay on a limited-term subscription, but widespread criticism saw the plan scrapped soon after – and the smartphone mirroring tech is now included in the price of the car.

While it's common practice for car manufacturers to build-in optional equipment – allowing them to enable or disable options for customers and streamlining new-car deliveries – there are few instances of car companies using a subscription payment model.

Tesla is one of the few car companies to offer various services and upgrades for a fee, but on-going subscriptions tend to be for phone and internet services.

BMW offers a similar model in Australia with their Connected Drive packages, allowing owners to pay for features such as the internet and a live concierge service.

Hackers see opportunity

BMW's proposal could open the door for a new industry of 'coders' to permanently enable vehicle options.

Mitch Bradford from Custom Car Coding is an automotive programming specialist, performing recoding services on newer model cars for his clients in Brisbane.

"Say you are trading in the old flagship for the new model, it would be a bit off-putting to hear the features don't necessarily come with the initial purchase price," he said.

Mr. Bradford told CarAdvice his most popular reprogramming jobs are enabling features such as the DPF filter status on Ford Rangers, disabling warning chimes, and adding remote start capability.

"The alternative view is if you buy the base model, it's nice to know you can easily upgrade the options later. Or just save money by hacking the car yourself or finding a coding specialist to do it for you."

BMW Australia was contacted about the possibility of subscription options being offered locally on future models. We will update this story with their response.