BMW’s $80/year CarPlay Subscriptions May Entrap Toyota Buyers Too

2020 Toyota Supra CarPlay Credit: Motor1
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News arrived yesterday revealing that BMW will begin charging users a subscription fee for access to CarPlay, to the tune of $80/year, and while the automaker’s plans aren’t new — it’s been talking about the move since last year — the actual announcement to begin doing so has raised some ire among BMW owners and potential buyers.

Still, as much as the new policy feels like serious nickel-and-diming for a luxury car maker — and there’s really no doubt that it is — it also doesn’t seem like an $80/year additional fee should be a problem considering the asking price for a typical BMW, especially since the car-maker is also offering a “lifetime” subscription for $300, although it’s unclear if this will be transferrable to another vehicle. Either way, though, BMW fans are justifiably upset with the move on principle alone.

Now it looks like BMW may not be the only carmaker to go down this road, with a new report from Motor1 revealing that Toyota’s 2020 Supra could also get caught up in BMW’s subscription scheme.

A red flag was raised among automotive enthusiasts when Toyota announced that it would be giving new buyers of the 2020 Supra four years of Apple CarPlay for free. Since most car manufacturers — except for, of course, BMW — have no annual fee for CarPlay at all, it raised the question of why Toyota would need to give any number of years of the service for free.

Well, it turns out that it isn’t that BMW’s policy applies to its vehicles so much as it applies to the infotainment system that’s in its vehicles. Since Toyota, for whatever reason, decided to use BMW’s infotainment system in the 2020 Supra, it seems that it’s going to have to play by BMW’s rules, meaning someone has to pay for access to CarPlay. For the first four years, that’s going to be Toyota, but the automaker isn’t making any guarantees about what will happen after that.

I followed up on this and was told that Toyota is offering Apple CarPlay compatibility to Supra customers for a 4-year trial period. Specifics regarding future subscription fees will be available at a later date.

Toyota spokesperson Nancy Hubbell, speaking to Motor1.com

In fact, according to an earlier report by Motor1, it seems that Toyota knew that this could be a consequence of getting into bed with BMW, and has been trying to figure out what to do about it. Offering a free four-year “trial subscription” seems to be the company’s answer for now, presumably to buy it some more time to figure out what to do after that.

To be fair, Toyota’s Supra is a higher-end luxury car as well, with prices starting at $50K, plus the need to go with either the Premium or Launch edition to get the necessary CarPlay hardware in the first place. As with BMW, you would think that a customer paying that kind of money for a car shouldn’t have to pay anything more for access to what is entirely a software feature, and while Toyota is certainly being more generous than BMW is, it hasn’t ruled out the possibility of also nickel-and-diming its customers in the same way.

Perhaps ironically, Toyota was also quite late to the CarPlay game, only adding the feature recently to its 2019 models, the rest of which use the company’s exclusive — if slightly weird — Entune 3.0 system that was originally a result of its attempt to drive customers to its own proprietary smartphone platform with its accompanying app ecosystem. Since Entune is Toyota’s own hardware, it shouldn’t be caught up in BMW’s current silliness, but there’s definitely a concern that Toyota could eventually become “inspired” by the Supra to expand a CarPlay subscription model across its entire lineup, which wouldn’t be surprising considering that Toyota seems to be embracing CarPlay only reluctantly following years of opposing the technology.

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