BMW News

Quite a few BMW owners are not going to be happy when they discover that their BMW Assist eCall, Concierge Call, or SOS buttons no longer work after December 31, 2016. Naturally, they will blame BMW, but their anger might be misdirected. The fault may more appropriately lie with mobile Internet providers who are progressively shutting down their 2G networks over the next two years.

Telecom companies are continuously developing new technology. Most users migrate to the newer technologies as they become available. This leaves the older, less-efficient, and often more costly technologies with fewer users, so the telecom companies “sunset” them. So, existing 2G networks are being “sunsetted” by the wireless providers, but since it is deciding to make the transition all at once right now, BMW is catching the heat.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened. Owners of older BMWs equipped with analog mobile phones discovered they had useless decorations in their center armrests when the phone companies converted all their signals from analog to digital. It wasn’t BMW’s fault then, either. By the way, anyone who is still using an old 2G cellular phone is also at the mercy of the telecoms' sunset dates.

Elimination of 2G service will affect model year 2013 and earlier BMWs, plus 2014 X6, 2015 and earlier X1, and 2016 and earlier Z4 vehicles. Only models with active BMW Assist or BMW ConnectedDrive contracts expiring January 1, 2017 or later are affected.

To soften the blow, BMW is offering compensation options for affected owners (this is something BMW did not do when their analog phones became obsolete, by the way). The choices are:

•  a $300 Lifestyle and Accessories voucher for in-center purchases plus deactivation of existing technology.

•  a $200 BMW Visa gift card plus deactivation of existing technology.

•  a retrofit of updated cellular technology. Owners with less than one year left on their current subscription may purchase a BMW Assist Safety Plan for $199 to maintain service.

Once an owner decides which compensation option he or she wants, the selection is permanent and can’t be changed. When the existing technology is deactivated, BMW Assist, BMW ConnectedDrive, and the emergency call button will no longer work.

BMW has set up a web site for affected owners to check their situations at They may plug in the last seven digits of their vehicle identification numbers to find their status. If a correct number is entered and it is not recognized, it most likely means the vehicle is not affected.

Owners may contact their local BMW dealer if they have more questions or to make compensation arrangements.

We have gone through this before and it’s not fun. As newer technologies come on line, the telecom companies will repeat this process in the future, and a new batch of connected car owners will discover their services are disappearing, regardless of what vehicle brand they are driving. Loss of BMW Assist would not be a sufficient reason for us to ditch an otherwise perfectly good, comfortable, great-handling BMW, but for some owners sitting on the edge of a new car purchase decision, this might be just enough to get them to make the leap. Then at least, they would have all the latest connected car stuff—at least for a while.—Scott Blazey

[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]