Mercedes Puts Faster Acceleration Behind A Subscription Paywall

from the working-windshield-wipers-for-$50-extra-a-month dept

Back in July, BMW raised a bit of a ruckus when the company announced that it would be making heated seats a luxury option for an additional $18 per month. Now, Mercedes aims to take the concept one step further by announcing that buyers of the company’s new Mercedes EQ electric models will need to pay a $1,200 (plus taxes and fees) yearly subscription to unlock the vehicles’ full performance.

The Drive points to Mercedes’ online store, where they note that buyers of the vehicle will need pay a monthly subscription to unlock an “acceleration increase”:

According to Mercedes, the yearly fee increases the maximum horsepower and torque of the car, while also increasing overall performance. Acceleration from 0-60 mph is said to improve by 0.8-1.0 seconds and the overall characteristics of the electric motors are supposed to change as well. The extra performance is unlocked by selecting the Dynamic drive mode.

As with BMW’s vision, you’ll likely see a lot of folks with more disposable income than common sense lauding this sort of stuff as pricing and technological innovation, largely because they want to justify their desire to pay a giant company extra for what they perceive as additional status.

The problem: you’re buying a vehicle with this technology (whether it’s faster acceleration or heated seats) already in the car. The cost of that technology is always going to be wound into the existing car’s price one way or another, as no manufacturer is going to take a bath on the retail price.

So you’re effectively paying for technology you already own to be turned on. Then, over time as subscription costs add up over the life of the vehicle you (and other later owners) own, you’re are paying significantly more money for that technology than what it’s worth (see: paying Comcast thousands of dollars in rental fees for a modem that costs them $50).

The need for quarter over quarter returns at any cost opens the door to rampant nickel-and-diming in the future, putting customers on an endless treadmill where paying to turn on technology you already own is constantly getting more expensive in a way that’s just completely untethered to real-world costs.

These subscription services also create an arms race with hackers and modders, with the right to repair (something you already own) debate waiting in the periphery. And the FTC is watching companies like a hawk, waiting to see if auto makers make simply enabling something you already own a warranty violation.

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Comments on “Mercedes Puts Faster Acceleration Behind A Subscription Paywall”

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47 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Only because so many people are stupid enough to value paying for subscriptions.

*How many streaming services are there? (‘Oh! I’m saving money by cutting the cord!’ Even though I’m still paying THE SAME ISP for the same web access that’s required to even watch the streaming services – that are also increasing their $treaming price$)
*How many online gaming subscriptions are there? (Nintendo online sucks [cough] even though I paid for it…twice…for the kids tho [cough]

Subscriptions mean:
-upfront pay
-from suckers (especially if the service is from a brand new company without a proven track record i.e. MoviePass)
-who don’t even fully utilize the services (GamePass – how many games can you/will you actually play)
-at an ever increasing price

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re:

Your central point has some merit, but I’d hold off on those strawmen you used to justify it.

“How many streaming services are there? ”

More than I could ever justify signing up for. Which is why I select the ones I want carefully and save a huge amount of money compared to the old system. I’m not in the US, so I have access to choice, etc., but the concept of subscriptions is the same. Sounds like you’re attacking streaming users when what you mean is that ISP monopolies are screwing you. I’d redirect my anger there if I were you.

“Subscriptions mean:
-upfront pay”

As opposed to..? Are you saying that services that charge you after you used the service (which usually includes a fixed term contract, piles on hidden charges you can’t dispute without penalty, etc.) are better for consumers?

You might be hallucinating if so…

“GamePass – how many games can you/will you actually play”

I average about 5-8 different games a month, which makes it way cheaper than buying the games at full price or renting individually. It also allows me to play Series X games on my One or laptop without having to buy new hardware, so the xCloud part of the sub pays for itself before I’ve even played multiple games. You don’t have to play all 300+ games for it to be value for money…

“-at an ever increasing price”

…which makes them different to other services… how? Are you confusing grandfathered in prices for your long contract with nobody facing rising costs at all? I’d research that for a moment…

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here comes Paul with the ‘strawman’ reply. Whenever I disagree with Paul’s narrative, it’s a ‘strawman’…whatevers.

If I were you, I’d stop assuming anger on my part. “Get off my cloud. You don’t know my name and don’t know my style”. Disagreement with the obvious delusions of subscribers doesn’t equal anger. Disappointment, maybe.

Subscribers tend to deny the fact that eventually they’re paying the same that they payed before ‘cutting the cord’ because not only are they paying the ever increasing ISP cost, they’re also paying the ever increasing streaming cost. Those costs combined (plus paying for MULTIPLE steaming services) are eventually going to equal what they were paying before ‘cutting the cord’. Always.

I hope you get all of the GamePass games you want before they’re yanked from the store/server, like the Matrix UE5 Demo was. (I hate I missed that boat on consoles; my video card isn’t all that, so the PC demo chugs)

I agree. The prices of all goods and services goes up. I just don’t like how digital subscriptions can change the rules (rotating movies, removing content because of licensing issues, the loss of content if you cancel the subscription, etc.), AND you never really own anything. At least with a magazine subscription, you get to keep the magazine after you stop paying the subscription…for now.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

As usual, he’s mixing up ideas to prove a point that’s in opposition to reality.

A magazine subscription is a service where you purchase copies of the magazine. You sign up to get them regularly in return for a discount or other benefits, but you buy the magazine.

A subscription like Netflix or Game Pass is a rental service. You sign up for access to a pool of titles way bigger than you can reasonably purchase, and can use any of those within the rental period. There’s no expectation of keeping them, since you rented, not bought them. Same as any public library or video store that existed pre-internet, this is not a new idea.

The distinction is clear, unless you specialise in lying or building scarecrows.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Here comes Paul with the ‘strawman’ reply.”

Yeah, that happens when you post strawman arguments.

“Subscribers tend to deny the fact that eventually they’re paying the same that they payed before ‘cutting the cord’ because”

…most aren’t. The threadbare creatures you built might, but most people don’t. Therefore, I call you out on strawman arguments. Get it?

Try addressing facts, not the opinions you project on a fictional avatar of what you imagine other people do.

“Always”

Demonstrably false. STOP LYING. Get it?

“I hope you get all of the GamePass games you want before they’re yanked from the store/server,”

It’s a rental service. I continuing accessing what I want during the rental period. If I want to buy, I do that.

What’s the problem here? Did some idiot not understand the difference between renting and buying?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Wow, this site has really become a cult. Whatever you do, kids, don’t disagree with Paul T – or your comment will be “flagged by the community”. Typical lefty tactics; disagree with the popular opinion and get banned – no varying view points. Paul calls me an “idiot”, even though I used no name calling in my rebuttal, and yet MY comment gets blocked. What a joke.

Enjoy those rentals, Paul…nevermind the fact that you can’t redownload ’em if you temporally deleted ’em for the sake of storage management.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

This is what happens when you lie, argue in bad faith or otherwise talk nonsense.

Did you consider maybe not doing those things?

“Enjoy those rentals, Paul…nevermind the fact that you can’t redownload ’em if you temporally deleted ’em for the sake of storage management.”

Which is a lie. I can do, and regularly DO do this on a very regular basis.

What I can’t do is download and play them again if I cancel my subscription. But, who – outside of the starving brain worms occupying your empty head – would even think that this is something that you could do in the first place? That’s what a rental is – I don’t get to keep the product after I stopped paying to rent it.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

So many new and exciting business oportunities...

Next up in the world of Paying Forever For Stuff You Already Bought(tm):

+$100/month to enable AC
+$150/month to enable heating
+$50/month to turn on car blinkers so the driver doesn’t have to use their arms to indicate when they plan to change lanes
+$75/month seat padding rental fees to cover everything beyond the metal frame of the seats
+$200/month self-service gas service to allow drivers to buy their gasoline at stations rather than having to go to the dealership to have the tank refiled

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

+$100/month to enable AC
+$150/month to enable heating

That’s probably a way to get around rent control laws in some areas—or, if not, to take advantage of those who don’t know the laws. There are already landlords in Ontario, Canada who are making people pay to rent water heaters under the guise of “utilities” (one can be required to pay for utilities, but not to rent necessary equipment separately—and the tank rentals are notoriously overpriced). Air conditioning is considered optional except in nursing/retirement homes, and many people would find the legal minimum for heat (20 °C) too low for their liking. So, such fees wouldn’t surprise me at all.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: '... yeah, how dare they allow us to use the vehicles we paid for?'

I imagine they’d try to argue that any ‘tampering’ along those lines would void the warranty for the entire vehicle, software and hardware.

First John Deere and now this, it’s like vehicle companies are trying to create a thriving ‘industry’ of people/groups hacking their vehicles to remove artificial restrictions, as well as ensuring that when they complain about the people doing that the public will be on the side of the hackers.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re:

I’d imagine that this would become a “safety” concern rather quickly. If a PC manufacturer can void your warranty unless you agree to reinstall the OS (which they can), I have no doubt that it will be an easy sell for manufacturers to state that removing their direct control over car performance risks things.

“As long as it meets emissions laws”

As we saw with VW, emissions can be controlled with software. They could easily argue that they can’t be responsible for faked emissions tests if the software has been tampered with, and from that it’s easy for laws to be passed to ban such a thing.

The idea of a subscription for features already physically on your car is nonsense, but it doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine the arguments used to prevent people bypassing them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

So basically, we aren’t allowed to hack the computer because it runs proprietary code… so why not just wipe the code and load your own?

Or, why not just say the first part of your statement is total bullshit and refuse to accept it? When the law—copyright, in this case—is ridiculous, we should disobey and eventually change the law rather than have people use even more ridiculous workarounds on the basis that they should “respect” it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

so why not just wipe the code and load your own?

Because that’s just as illegal. If there’s any kind of DRM or other “technical protection measure” (as mechtheist pointed out elsewhere, even the weakest form of encryption) preventing access to the software, then it’s a federal crime to bypass that measure, never mind remove the guarded software. The relevant law is DMCA 1201.

Read the first four paragraphs of this article for more info: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/11/lets-stand-home-hacking-and-repair

David says:

Not quite as simple as that

The problem: you’re buying a vehicle with this technology (whether it’s faster acceleration or heated seats) already in the car. The cost of that technology is always going to be wound into the existing car’s price one way or another, as no manufacturer is going to take a bath on the retail price.

The maximum capabilities of the electrical power train determine how far regenerative braking can go, and that significantly affects the energy efficiency of the car outside of highway traffic.

At the same time, the maximum positive acceleration provided by the motor factors into the car’s insurance class and its permits. Like with artificially speed-capped motorbikes, unlocking such capabilities cannot be left to the user since it has legal and tax consequences. That situation is quite different to the “heated seat” add-on which does not really factor into the car’s basic operation.

So effectively unlocking insurance/tax-relevant capabilities already incurs additional monthly costs that would provide incentive to let those capabilities stay locked away. What is unusual here is that the manufacturer themselves cashes in and increases the difference in monthly pay that accessing higher-powered acceleration causes.

The future will probably go towards even finer-grained access to acceleration, like “this is your driver assistant speaking. Do you want to pay $2 for showing that sob your tail lights right now?”.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re:

If you think my insurance is going to charge me based on the assertion that the engine is locked in software to a lower performance level, but the car is capable of much more significant acceleration such that the car is in a different insurance class, you are delusional. They are charging me based on that engine.

David says:

Re: Re:

Artificially capped engines are a thing. This is what the big diesel scandals were about (engine firmware engaged emission-sensitive behavior only when in test conditions), and many motorbikes are artificially capped to their license class. There is quite an active market for unlocking such caps, and vehicles are being confiscated that have been unlocked in violation of the permits tied into particular tax classes.

It’s not particularly delusional to acknowledge things that have been going on and are well-known and prosecuted for decades on end.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Added to the licensing issues at play here, I could also see Mercedes having one warranty for the locked version of their vehicle, and another warranty for the unlocked version — the subscriptions would then be to cover the cost of the increased repairs/decreased lifespan of a vehicle that’s unlocked.

That said, it would really suck to buy such a vehicle that had spent the previous part of its life being driven hard in the unlocked state, but when you get it it has reverted to locked — so you assume the parts will last longer. This seriously complicates multiple ownership.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m glad you know government regulations and how they apply. All of your examples are about vehicles built with a weaker engine being modified to produce a stronger one.

At least when I dealt with motorbikes with a capped performance, If I had a 200CC engine ‘capped’ by software to 49.5 CC, id still need a license for a 200CC engine. Neither the DMV or police cared about a software cap.

I doubt the DMV has a system for Mercedes to deal with software unlocked performance. Nor is Mercedes getting the DMV to change that with any speed. So that VIN will be associated with a larger capacity engine, and that’s what your insurance would look at.

Your insurance should assume a software unlock, which is a much lower bar than physical modifications to increase the volume of fuel at ignition.

nasch (profile) says:

Re:

Speaking from a US perspective…

At the same time, the maximum positive acceleration provided by the motor factors into the car’s insurance class and its permits.

I’ve never heard of insurance decisions based on acceleration or horsepower, rather they’re based on risk. How risky are drivers of the Mercedes EQS vs the Chevy Spark? And how costly are repairs? That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but I would want to see evidence before believing that. And there are no permitting variations based on acceleration.

Like with artificially speed-capped motorbikes, unlocking such capabilities cannot be left to the user since it has legal and tax consequences.

Not a thing in the US. There is only one category of motorcycle endorsement, and taxes (registration fees) are based on the age of the vehicle, not other characteristics.

So with that said, assuming all the above applies in Europe and/or other locations…

So effectively unlocking insurance/tax-relevant capabilities already incurs additional monthly costs

To the manufacturer? I think not. This has no regulatory, tax, safety, or insurance implications. It’s just a naked cash grab.

Anonymous Coward says:

Even though now this looks ridiculous, that’s actually good in the long run. The arms race will be won by hackers and modders, I have no doubt about that. Any shenanigans from automakers will only add fuel to the right to repair debate. As crazy as it may sound, we need more of these subscription initiatives from all automakers. Crank it up to ludicrous levels and beyond, until it gets so much regulatory attention, that ignoring right to repair won’t be possible anymore and no amount of lobbying could solve that.

Ed (profile) says:

Ridiculous

Paying $1200/year for a 1 second decrease of the 0-60 mph bragging rights? All of these idiotic EVs being advertised with 2 and 3 second 0-60 times. Why not put that energy (pun intended) to making the cars more efficient and go further instead of some high-school-level boast. When I was researching for my last car purchase, I wanted a luxury PHEV. I had to rule out the BMW and Mercedes because they use the electric motors for performance enhancement, not efficiency. Totally ridiculous.

David says:

Re: Sigh

I had to rule out the BMW and Mercedes because they use the electric motors for performance enhancement, not efficiency.

You cannot separate the two. Efficiency demands that you can recycle braking energy, and that means that the maximum available efficient deceleration is inherently tied to the available acceleration because the motor must be able to convert the respective energis (mechanical to/from electrical) and does it pretty much the same in either direction.

A weak motor will not be much use for regenerative braking.

JMT (profile) says:

Re:

I had to rule out the BMW and Mercedes because they use the electric motors for performance enhancement, not efficiency. Totally ridiculous.

Not ridiculous, just the way electric motors work. Actual performance would depend entirely on your own right foot. What you’re actually saying is you couldn’t trust yourself to not use all the available performance. I can relate…

Anonymous Coward says:

Disposible Technology

Anything with connectivity is just like the DVD navigation systems that are no longer supported.

Technology standards will continue changing, while your digital vroom vroom gets left in the digital dust.

I believe the OPSEC folks call that purchasing an attack vector that did not exist prior as well.

It does make marketing automobiles with forward thinking a positive benefit for the manufacturers that know how fast digital goes obsolete.

Anonymous Coward says:

A bad example, perhaps, but could be useful in other areas?

I’m somewhat torn here. While this particular case is pretty hard to justify ($$$ for 1 sec of acceleration?!?!), this practice has been going on in IT markets for decades … and can be somewhat useful.

The “Business 101” analysis is that it allows the manufacturer to reduce unit costs by only building 1 model instead of, e.g., 5 different models. That potentially reduces costs for everyone, including those who do NOT choose to pay for the software unlock/upgrade.

But cars are a much longer-lived item than computers or IT gear, so I’m not sure that analysis works the same way.

For me, the IT-security issues alone would outweigh any savings … my car has to phone-home periodically to see if it’s allowed to drive, I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that?!?!

fairuse (profile) says:

Muscle Cars and EPA/Insurance

The race (pun intended) to build the car with engines that supply the most horsepower was a marketing plan to increase sales to young adults and it worked. Gasoline was 30 cents a gallon at my sister’s BF soon to be hubby gas station/repair. Engines of 427ci, 440ci, and 454ci had big horsepower and could be modified for even more HP if that was your thing.

Insurance companies put risk penally on cubic inch/hp above a selected baseline, 350ci & (forgot hp but I think middle 200’s). Then EPA did their emissions laws that killed muscle car market. Insurance companies do a lot of number crunching and it is on actual supplied engine cubic inch (cubic centimeter/liter) it is in the VIN #. Not sure how almost MotoGP bikes are handled at consumer retail. There was a stink about kids “crotch rockets” and fatal crashes.

Fast forward to wife’s Subaru. There is no way I could reverse engineer any of the computer subsystems in that car even though I worked in process control till retirement. No documentation, some hardware embedded in plastic ‘black boxes’ and the operating system would shut down everything if tampered with. BTW the heated seats switches are next to front right seat. Thanks.

The only subscription option is AT&T wifi which I said NO because it can call home.

The EV tricks by manufactures will bite them in the ass one day.

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