By on January 24, 2019

Daimler is updating its “Mercedes me” app to include on-board purchases via a virtual store, available across the globe. With the 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class, B-Class and GLE, customers can even order some optional equipment online after purchasing their vehicle. According to the manufacturer, customers can subsequently purchase digital radio, smartphone integration with Apple Carplay or Android Auto, and enhanced navigation. Think of it like downloadable content (DLC) in video games or new apps for your phone, only for your car’s MBUX infotainment system.

While it’s handy to have the ability to add optional equipment remotely, we’re always hesitant to praise anything that monetizes digital content. DLC and microtransactions have really pitted the gaming community against publishers, resulting in some pretty heinous schemes to nickel and dime the customer base. Now, the trend has moved beyond the borders of that industry and into the automotive sector. 

Fortunately, it appears the upgraded “Mercedes me” doesn’t have the same gamification as Honda’s Dream Drive or the rampant corporate partnerships we’ve seen with General Motors’ Marketplace app. But it lays some of the groundwork while offering new services that are poised to become commonplace in the industry. Tesla already offers over-the-air updates on its vehicles. Mercedes’ announcement is basically the same, but allows you to pay for optional extras à la carte.

The automaker claims the addition should help resale values. However, we’re not entirely sure how that would work, as it also provides customers an opportunity to further customize their car, even if they’re buying it secondhand.

From Mercedes-Benz:

The required optional equipment [can be] activated via the Mercedes me Store in the head unit or online with a few clicks. This is particularly attractive in cases where the customer has forgotten to order an option ex factory. However, it is also a good opportunity for second or third owners to adapt the vehicle to their own wishes.

This also benefits markets where dealers order vehicles with equipment packages (build-to-stock), as well as the used vehicle sector and “young classics”.

Obviously, extras purchased online are limited to MBUX. You can’t get a bigger engine or all-wheel drive, which limits Mercedes me’s scope and any complaints we might have had. That rather cursory assessment is unlikely to change unless the automaker begins withholding options, or perhaps makes buying them via the app significantly more expensive than checking applicable boxes on an order form.

[Images: Daimler AG]

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57 Comments on “Mercedes-Benz Wants You to Purchase Options Digitally After Your Car Leaves the Factory...”


  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Optional Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and in-dash navigation does not say, “luxury” to me.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The big question: how much do they charge for the download? Given that this is Mercedes, we know the answer.

    Seriously, just make the stuff standard.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Yeah, the nickel-and-diming of digital content can seem annoying.

    However…

    I costs money to develop applications and features. The monetization of digital content is entirely appropriate if said contest was not free to begin with. I’m developing a game app right now and I’m struggling with how to best get back some of the considerable amount of both money and time I have put into it. I don’t want to annoy customers, but the options for generating revenue are either having them pay directly for the content or try to support it with annoying ads (and the risk that the ad providers such as Google AdMod could restructure the revenue model at any time). It’s my opinion that direct payment is more honest and gives me complete control over what my customers see. But most people don’t like paying for things which tends to limit the market.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      All true, and it all makes sense in the context of an $18,000 car, but we’re talking about a Mercedes. The good stuff should be standard.

      Put differently: I guarantee you that Genesis isn’t going to charge for something like Android Auto.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      “This game sux!! I got through the 5th level and then it said I have to pay a dollar to get the last 10 levels! Unbelievable! Rarr! *sound of rending garments*”

      Google Play reviews will induce many a facepalm.

      Still, my vote is that paid content is a better model. I am willing to pay for apps, and I do, and I don’t cry about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My Honda Civic EX + Honda Sensing includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and I only paid $20k/$22k for it.

      This is like those “high end” hotels which charge extra for wifi and breakfast. The theory is that their core customer is so rich they just don’t care about being nickel and dimed. I don’t think I’m capable feeling that way, even if I had a billion in the bank. As soon as you put a price on it, my MBA-engineer brain goes into resource optimization mode, and I’m suddenly in work mode. I’d rather stay at a Holiday Inn Express.

      For me, luxury is the lack of being nickeled and dimed. Just charge me one price, and then let me relax and enjoy the amenities without pulling out my calculator.

      P.S. Tesla gets away with this. But the features they’re selling don’t feel like nickel and dimeing.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    *scrolls past 3 digital advertisements*

    *reads digital content*

    “we’re always hesitant to praise anything that monazites digital content.”

    Tehee

    • 0 avatar
      kurkosdr

      What ads? (hugs Brave Browser)

      • 0 avatar
        Prove your humanity: 9 + 8 =

        I just downloaded the Brave browser. This page sure is nice without the stupid video ad playing without being asked to.
        Me likes! Now there will be a little less monaziting going on around here.

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          Is it smart enough to fool Websites, so they don’t know their ads are being blocked? I run Chrome with AdBlock Plus, and an increasing number of sites see an ad blocker and ask you to disable it for their site, or even worse, ask you to buy a pass that enables you to view their site with less, or no, ads.

          • 0 avatar
            Matt Posky

            A funny jab but I don’t think anyone who writes here has ever praised, or been made rich off, any of our ads. In fact, we even issue disclaimers on as much of the sponsored content as possible and are vehemently against hiding content behind ad walls.

            While aren’t responsible for what our corporate masters do, you know where we stand on things. Ideally, we’d like to earn a paycheck without having you all cope with commercials.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            I wonder why AdBlock Plus hasn’t responded to that? There’s gotta be other ways to kill the ads without being noticed!

            I’ve caught that as well, and it’s annoying as h-e-double hockey sticks!

  • avatar
    W210Driver

    Isn’t MBUX only available on the A class? I suppose this says something about the target market of this particular car; technology-affine younger consumer who are into the whole digital customization thing.

    I can’t imagine a typical S class owner playing around with this stuff.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    I could see this stuff being held hostage at some point by having a version of whatever software “deprecated” and “de-supported” with little notice.

    Ah, but Mercedes has a way to remedy that — with a new version! All you have to do is open your wallet…!

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    When I was speed-reading this article I thought it said “Virtue store”. I wonder what products that would include…

  • avatar
    conundrum

    “hesitant to praise anything that monazites digital content”

    I’m against “monazites” myself.

    Seriously, does anyone at this august publication ever read anything they’ve written? Lack of quality control abounds, and then you have a go at manufacturers who at least screw on the trim in the right place.

    Makes you wonder sometimes if anyone at TTAC has any pride in their work. It’s getting pretty wishy-washy. If you brush off comments like mine, it only reinforces the don’t give a **** attitude that seems to prevail.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    So let’s call it how it is. The hardware has the capability. Mercedes turns it off in the software and charges you to turn it back on. Is it a Mercedes, or a Verizon iPhone?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Maybe our President used monazites in one of his tweets about the Federal Reserve. Trump creates all kinds of new words.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Right! And what I find so amazing is that so much of the general public and citizenry actually starts using those new words in daily discourse, like Fake News Media, Alternate Facts and other Trump-isms.

      Gotta love it!

      Or hate it.

      But never unaffected.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The way most of us use these new words is bigly sarcastic.

        The Internet generation has been mocking old Republican politicians who fail to understand the connected world since Ted Stevens made his “series of tubes” gaffe. The “series of tubes” (or “information plumbing”) is a pretty good metaphor for how the Internet actually works, especially when you’re talking to someone who just watched a movie featuring “cyberspace”. However, the way Stevens applied it made him sound like our grandparents stumbling through a lesson on how to check their email. Accordingly, the phrase “series of tubes” has became a sarcastic meme among those of us who have had the experience of coaching our grandparents into the modern world.

        It’s possible that you’re missing the dripping sarcasm in the way a lot of these Trumpisms are used.

        Or maybe your friends actually use these words unironically…?

        Now, I will proofread my comment to make sure I’ve haven’t covfefed myself.

  • avatar

    There is a difference between data and function. Paying for music or live traffic data is one thing but I object to renting functionality. If BMW is going to rent Carplay its just nonsense. Likewise when I leave with the car it should always work as ir leaves. Just because Tesla can play with the software remotely doesnt mean my car should have in game purchases.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I agree! We gave up Sirius XM when they raised the prices to over $200/year.

      Even my wife, who loves Fifties on Five, thought that was insane.

      I would not be a good candidate for buying options digitally, from any OEM.

      I’d make do with something else, like an App on my phone.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I just let it expire and without fail they call back in a couple weeks with some sort of deal. I tink I’m at like 30 bucks a year. I don’t have it in my Fiesta because it has Car Play (standard on a Fiesta ST…just saying Mercedes) and just use Spotify. I keep it in the truck because I don’t like the interface for phone streaming in it. I like Lithium and 90s on 9, and Stern does a good interview from time to time. Worth a few bucks to me a month, but not 200 a year.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          We got an offer from them today, $5 a month, even though we don’t have the Sequoia any more.

          But a couple of years back I circumvented this obstacle by recording the music she liked from our Satellite Sirius channels to DVD, and then converted the DVD audio track to mp3, and recorded the mp3 data to HDD, CDs and other mp3-playing devices we own.

          I used Free software from CNET/download.

          Works good for us.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            But Sirius audio quality sucks. You’d be better off with a streaming service and just recording the albums you want from there.

            Still, as the one audiophile left on the planet that thinks the move back to vinyl is stupid and a cynical money grab (especially all the digitally mastered stuff now showing up as records), just go to Goodwill and get CDs. They are like a buck.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Downloadable ‘skins’ for your gauge cluster = $20 each
    Launch Control = $20 per use
    AMG+ Sport Mode = $30 per month or $10 per use
    Not having a Pepsi ad play every time you turn off your car = $5 per month

  • avatar
    EGSE

    A somewhat similar business model has been used with electronics test equipment for a few decades….activating features at a later date you didn’t buy when acquiring the device. It can be via a software download or with an activation code to enable hardware that already exists. One manufacturer used small “cartridges” that plugged in and were read by the embedded micro to enable features that were already installed. When trying to buy the cartridges at a later date I found they were no longer offered. But they steered me to a firmware download to turn all the extra-cost features on…for free. Made me a fan for life.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Fact is that many mfgs have been producing cars that have capabilites that aren’t activated unless you pay for the option.

    DRLs are one of those things that since vehicles sold in Canada require it most of the cars sold in the US have the capability. Ford will turn it on for US fleets for $40 even though it literally costs nothing for them to load code that includes a 1 instead of a 0 in the correct line of code.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      My car(current Jeep Compass) has the strangest automatic manual headlamps.

      The ambient light sensor is visible and works— it automatically adjusts the day/night display brightness— after you manually turn the light switch.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        As I keep thinking about this topic— FCA has begun including customizable/blank CANBUS circuits and switches on the more deluxe versions of the big terminal cars— RAM and Wrangler. So there’s precedent for the opposite of disabling software options, too.

        I call those cars terminal because they’re the last step up. Some individuals will not take another seriously if they are not in a ‘terminal’ car.

        My Sister, as much as I love her, has always called my cars ‘toys’ and acted like she is afraid of them. Her first car was an Intrepid. Mine was a neon. Hers was the wine color of mamaw’s lipstick— mine? The royal purple of mamaw’s varicose veins!

        Man I’m happy a purple car is back in style. As soon as they offer the Compass in 4×4 Tsi with the 2.0t and a manual— Plum Crazy with a white roof, interior and wheels— this pumpkin orange one is gone.

  • avatar
    grrr

    I wonder if dealers can delete the options on used cars so they can be “sold” again.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    Turd on a wire.

    It does make me wonder… the comment was made on yesterday’s Ford Ranger Ace of Base article that you can buy the switches and reflash the ECU to get cruise control. There’s not much difference between that and this.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      I don’t know why there are complaints— in te bad old days of early implementations- it used to be that the car had to be hooked up to the starscan tool to make this stuff happen.

      In the trucking side— the processes are exactly the same on a Peterbilt/Kenworth. The climate control module still has to be coded to the truck’s computer upon replacement.

      Its a bit bionic. An automotive organ transplant. BMW forces computer coding of mechanical parts, even.

      Now about that over-the-air Prozac…

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        The BMW coding bit is pretty annoying, but my understanding is that it allows them to make more standard modules. For example – an adaptive HID headlight module (vertical and/or horizontal aim) that could work for either left or right. When you install a new one, you have to tell it what its job is – is it on the left or right side, and what options is the car computer trying to activate? So it is annoying, but it does make sense. If you are tech-savvy and buy the right equipment, you can do this yourself. But most people probably wouldn’t want to mess with it.

  • avatar
    cammark

    This news makes me wonder what their security and encryption measures have been to both prevent malicious activity (disabling vehicle functions or uploading viruses) and “free” upgrades (letting your software-engineer nephew save you a few grand…)

    If the software can be changed over the air like this, there is a backdoor necessarily. Has it been locked? Deadbolt-ed? security guard on duty..? Some kid in Russia will know soon enough I’m sure.

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    And when the warranty runs out they will offer you a customizable warning light upgrade. Don’t like that yellow “check engine”? Now you can have it in pink!

  • avatar
    Urlik

    Next comes subscription service with mandatory sign up for auto renewal to “keep the software updated.”. Smfh

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Am I the only one who reads MBUX (presumably, Mercedes Benz User eXperience) as M-BUX as in spend your Mercedes bucks?

  • avatar

    I can see these options being turned into subscription type things. And/or when the car changes owners all the prior options purchased “reset” to the base level when the car was shipped.

    Now owner two gets to pay for them again.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Excellent call there, Corey. Like a 2-year cable deal. You trade in the car too soon, you may even have to pay the difference between discount and full price for the remainder of the term.

    • 0 avatar
      civicjohn

      The current issue of Fortune has an article about the race for auto manufacturers to collect user data from the driver and stop giving it to Google and Apple.

      It specifically mentions MB and BMW. While the pr flacks speak of “anonymized” data, the fact is they figured out that Google and Facebook make a crap load of money by users blindly handing over their personal data. Add a dash of GPS data and they’ll pretty much have you figured out in a couple of weeks.

      I don’t wear a tinfoil hat, but I shut down my FB account 10 years ago and my search engine is Duck Duck Go.

  • avatar
    binksman

    Having just helped a family member install remote start on their 2017 Dodge Ram using factory parts, I do see an appeal to being able to add vehicle function via remote update. The worst part of our experience was having to take the truck to a dealer and deal with their service tech. We installed the factory parts and ran the wires, all they needed to do was reprogram the body computer. Thirty minutes and $120 later the service tech was telling us the parts were wrong even though they were the exact part numbers needed. Turned out the low fuel light came on while the truck was in the service bay and the ECM blocks remote start is the vehicle is low on fuel. All of which we determined on our on in five minutes in the parking lot.

  • avatar
    multicam

    This reminds me of the Wrangler YJ fuel tank. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Wranglers came stock with a 15 gallon fuel tank, but you could pay extra for an optional 20 gallon tank. I’ve never cared enough to look up how much that option cost.

    Well, it turns out every YJ came with a 20 gallon tank. All they did when you paid for the upgrade was change the filler tube that goes from the inlet down into the tank from a long one (about 12”) to a shorter one, which changed when the fuel pump at the gas station registered that your tank was full. I performed this “upgrade” myself about 3 months after buying my ‘94 YJ and very much enjoyed the extra 90-ish miles I could drive between fill-ups.

    This ain’t new.

  • avatar

    with all that my remote “START” function still does not work the answer from MBNA “we are working on it ” get the basics done first ….


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