Yesterday it was “announced” that BMW will be charging a yearly fee of $80 to use Apply CarPlay in your own car, or a “lifetime” payment of $300. With this, they’ve jumped the shark. 

In the headline, I put announced in quotations because this really isn’t news, per se. It’s really just that everyone’s starting to catch on to this. I also put lifetime in quotations because the “lifetime” payment for $300 only covers 20 years. The average human life expectancy in the United States is 78.69 years. So if you buy a BMW at 30, you’re only expected to live until you’re 50, at least according to BMW’s lifetime scale. 

Jumping the shark is a term coined by Sean Connolly in 1985 to his roommate Jon Hein, now a producer of the Howard Stern Show, and the co-host of The Wrap-Up Show on Howard 101. They later created a website and Hein has written two books about jumping the shark. It is used to refer to a show, product, movie, or brand that makes it more irrelevant. It refers to the time on the show “Happy Days” in 1977 when Fonzie, still donning his leather jacket, but with a bathing suit and life preserver, literally jumped a shark on some water skis. 

On January 31 of this year, my mom was looking at buying a new 2019 BMW X5, I took her to a dealership to visit a friendly acquaintance. They had what she wanted, a 50i X5 with M-Sport (this has the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that makes 456 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque), but it was a car they used for demo and event purposes. Meaning they weren’t eager to sell it if they could find her what she wanted at another dealer, or if she wanted to special order one. We started the build process and soon I saw something I couldn’t believe once we got to the technology section of the build. You could get Apple CarPlay, but there was an asterisk… you would be charged a subscription fee to use the built-in software on your own car after the first year. 

Taken from BMW’s YouTube page and edited with text.

I thought it had to be a joke, but it certainly was not. So here we are building a $93,000 SUV, and BMW will thank you by forcing you to pay them more money to use something they could just charge you in the price of the car without you even knowing or caring. 

A few months ago my mom actually traded that X5 in for a 2019 750i M-Sport, and my dad daily drives a 2019 M850i. All three cars had Apple Carplay, obviously, and all three cars do CarPlay well with their beautiful screens. However, CarPlay has had weird-ass issues in those BMWs, and worse, unlike in my 2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 with CarPlay, audio is not synced properly. So if you’re sitting still and eating some food or hanging out in the car, you have to disable CarPlay and just use your iPhone’s built-in speakers to actually enjoy anything. 

Now I get it, BMW, any possibly other automakers (it’s yet to be seen if anyone will follow suit), aren’t going to be getting as much for cars with navigation. That feature is probably going the way of the birds since you can use Google Maps or Apple Maps (why, though?) mirrored from your phone to your infotainment screen. So fewer and fewer people will pony up hundreds of dollars to upgrade their navigation maps. Which, still to this day, absolutely confounds me why that’s a thing. You pay a lot of money for a BMW that has optional extras that are standard on a 2020 Toyota Corolla, and then they’ll make sure you still have to pay to upgrade the damn maps on your navigation. Why isn’t that covered in the price of the vehicle? And now, even worse, you’ll have to fork over $80 a year for something that they’re not paying for. 

I made this photo of a 2019 X5 jumping a BMW sharkfin while Fonzie water skis behind it and the kid from Free Willy is trying to touch the bottom of the car.

So, to sum up, BMW want you to pay them for the privilege of using software that, as far as I know, Apple do not charge a licensing fee for. But, even paying for this, because, you know, you can afford it, you don’t actually get the functionality and usability of a Ford with Apple CarPlay.

Nice one, BMW. You have officially jumped the shark.