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A heated steering wheel for $20 a month? What’s driving the subscriptions economy


shutterstock. Louise Grimmer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

From gym memberships to music and movies, to razors, toilet paper, meal kits and clothes, there’s seemingly no place the subscription economy can’t go.

Having conquered the software market – where it gets its own acronym, SaaS (Software as a Service) – the subscription model is now moving into hardware.

Car makers are among the first cabs off the rank, using software to turn on and off optional extras.

German auto maker BMW is offering “ in-car microtransactions ” to access options for car buyers in Britain, Korea, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa. A heated steering wheel, for example, has a monthly cost of NZ$20 in New Zealand, and £10 in the UK.

Other markets including Australia will soon follow.In the UK, seven of 13 “digital services” – from heated seats to automatic high beam and driving assistance – are now available in subscription form.“Welcome to microtransaction hell” is how one headline put it.But that’s probably overselling the onset of a corporate dystopia where “you will own […]

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