You could be forgiven for thinking this is ‘Get BMW month’, but the Munich-based luxo car company does it to itself. Sitting up in the lofty towers of the four-cylinder building, it assumed an almost typical Teutonic arrogance.
When BMW first offered Apple Car Play as an option, BMW charged its Australian customers a hefty $400 for a two year subscription! $80 a year for American buyers. What! Why, you say?
When this issue first arose, I decided to call three different BMW dealerships in three different states and ask them all the same question – when it’s standard on cars from the Suzuki Swift and the Kia Cerato, plus the Mercedes-Benz C200 and the Audi A4 – why do BMW customers get slugged with a subscription?
Needless to say the showroom floor staff were apparently not listening during the product education training, because I got three totally different, idiotic and incomprehensible explanations – none of which satisfactorily answered the question.
I owe it to my old friends at CAR AND DRIVER to reveal the real reason. Turns out when BMW were doing the product planning on new features like Apple CarPlay, it thought that if it offered a sophisticated form of integration with BMW iDrive, it would be able to get away with slugging the buyers – you want it, you pay for it!
Finally, common sense has prevailed and BMW has folded on the subscription charge, and will also make it available for existing owners. The company was simply unable to keep the wool pulled over the buyers’ eyes.
According to one explanation BMW decided to make its CarPlay application wireless, which as any auto electrical engineer knows is a hiding to nowhere, because the operation of CarPlay requires a cable connection, in order to move the massive amounts of data between the iPhone and the Head Unit.
BMW gave itself an almighty headache by attempting to wirelessly integrate it into iDrive, so it simply decided to keep passing the cost off on its customers.
The code used by Apple for CarPlay keeps changing with every iteration of the iOS operating system, so BMW had to keep assigning engineers to tweak iDrive – and the Boardroom decision was that we’d just keep pushing the extra cost onto the owners.
I love it when management arrogance gets its come-uppance. BMW AG actually recognised its error a long time ago, but decided to keep sucking the lemon – as long as the customers kept on paying!
Now, it's a no-cost option - just like every other car company.