Mercedes wants EV buyers to get used to paywalled features
Your new electric car can be faster for as "little" as $60 per monthBy Adrian Potoroaca 54 comments
WTF?! Car companies want to make billions by charging recurring fees for nice-to-have features in their vehicles, some of which are physically present at the time you purchase them. Most consumers aren't biting, but that doesn't mean this trend is going away anytime soon. In the case of Mercedes, it is willing to adjust the pricing in small steps until enough customers fall into the trap to call it a successful strategy.
Last year, BMW added itself to the list of car companies chasing the trend of locking various creature comforts behind a paywall. The company wanted to squeeze more money out of customers in some countries for optional features like heated seats, high beam assist, or a heated steering wheel, so it decided to charge monthly fees for them. Notably, this was just a few short years after a failed attempt to convince BMW fans to pay for using Apple CarPlay.
While manufacturers see this as a great way to improve their bottom line, consumers aren't exactly thrilled about the idea of paying more for features that are already in-place at the time of purchasing their vehicle. Companies like Mercedes have even gone as far as asking for $1,200 annually to unlock the "full performance" of its EQ luxury electric vehicles with what is essentially a software update.
It turns out that Mercedes buyers aren't rushing to pay extra for a small improvement to a car that cost upwards of $100,000. Still, the company isn't giving up and has instead chosen to adjust the pricing structure for the so-called "Acceleration Increase" feature.
For owners of the AWD EQE 350 sedan and its SUV sibling who want more power and speed, pricing now starts at $60 per month for 60 horsepower, or $600 if you pay annually. People who won the pricier AWD EQS 450 car or SUV will have to pay $90 per month or $900 per year to get an additional 80 horsepower. Mercedes is even offering the ability to pay a one-time fee of $1,950 for EQE owners and $2,950 for EQS owners to permanently unlock the feature.
This may sound like madness to many, and a recent survey from AutoPacific confirms that a majority of consumers aren't willing to pay a subscription fee for extras. Last year, a study by Cox Automotive revealed that some people would pay for vehicle performance features if they were reasonably priced ($20 to $25 per month). However, 92 percent of respondents thought features like heated and cooling seats should be included in the car's purchase price.
That said, companies like General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford believe car software and subscription-based features can generate well over $20 billion in annual revenue by 2030. We'll have to wait and see, but one thing's for sure – a growing community of hackers keeps finding ways to circumvent the software locks on some paid features for BMW cars, and it's only a matter of time before they'll be able to do the same for any vehicle with paywalls.
Masthead credit: Aditya Panchal