By on July 23, 2021

Image: Mercedes-Benz

If you want the more-advanced version of the rear-wheel steering system on the Mercedes-Benz EQS, and you live in Germany, prepare to pony up to unlock the software.

It will cost you about $575 a year to get an over-the-air update that will unlock the 10-degree rear-wheel-steering system. Unless you sign up for a three-year subscription, in which case you’ll pay a bit over $1,300, which is a bit of a discount in terms of per-year rate.

For now, American buyers won’t need to worry about this — the 10-degree system is standard here (the base in Germany is 4.5 degrees of rear-wheel steering). But it’s yet another example of automakers flirting with the idea of charging customers subscription fees to access certain features.

I’m not trying to be alarmist here — just because automakers are testing the idea, it doesn’t mean it will become standard operating procedure. Automakers might find consumer backlash to be too harsh, for example.

Yet it’s one more way in which the carmakers are at least trying to see what does and doesn’t work when it comes to subscription-only access to features. No matter how the future plays out, these dipping of toes into the water, so to speak, bear watching.

[Image: Mercedes-Benz]

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28 Comments on “Locked Up: Mercedes-Benz to Charge for Access to EQS’ Rear-Wheel Steering...”

  • avatar

    Right-to-Repair….how about just Right-to-Use?

    • 0 avatar

      This is such a terrible idea. Like what happens in a few years when the server that keeps track of the subscription goes dark because MB decides its not worth the effort or cost? This isn’t some phone app that gets super popular then fades away, this is a car that should last 10-20-30 years? Oh wait that’s right these are disposal income status symbols that are leased then tossed aside when a new shiny thing arrives. A 3 year subscription is about as long the part was designed to last.

      • 0 avatar

        End-of-life and ongoing support for these “subscriptions options” is probably going to be a PITA for the manufacturers and why I think schemes like this will thankfully be a short-lived thing.

      • 0 avatar

        “This is such a terrible idea. Like what happens in a few years when the server that keeps track of the subscription goes dark because MB decides its not worth the effort or cost?”

        Or when Chrysler “merges” with Daimler who then sells to Cerebrus and eventually it becomes Fiat Chrysler which after another sale becomes Stellantis which then becomes…

        Tell me any of these feature servers would survive any of that.

        Shoot, Sonos can’t keep even your speakers going. Planned obsolescence. “Oh, we’re sorry, our back end system no longer supports Rear Steering 1.62 with 10.5 degree specs. We’ve moved on. Why don’t you just buy another car?”

        We saw this when GM started putting OnStar into cars. Analog cellular service went away and switched to digital; GM sold analog service cars (and service!) right up until the last day of analog availability. Then the same thing happened when Verizon moved from CDMA over to LTE–whoops, you got the WRONG CAR. Sorry, your OnStar won’t work. Why don’t you just buy another car?

      • 0 avatar

        If they’re like mobile games, they’ll enable all options for all customers right before the EoL.

        Of course, this being Mercedes, they’ll probably disable features while flashing messages on-screen to upgrade to their newest and the greatest every time you start the car.

  • avatar

    What is rear wheel steering supposed to accomplish? I know it shows up and goes away often enough. If I recall correctly, Mazda brought it back on something (Protégè?) 20 years ago, and it didn’t stick around.

    As for charging annually for bits that are on your car, that’s not going to end well. If it’s strictly software, then that’s a gray area; I keep getting begged by Sirius to sign up and won’t. What happens if a rear steering capable bit breaks and you’re not subscribed to that portion of the car? I can’t even wrap my head around it to formulate a good question.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda had it on the MX-6 for a few years while Honda had it on the Prelude in the same era. GM brought it back on pickups for a short period of time too.

      The idea is that same steer results in quicker lane change type maneuvers while counter steer reduces turning radius for parking type maneuvers.

      The Honda system was purely mechanical and as you turned the steering wheel from center to full lock you could watch the rear tires start by turning the same direction a few degrees, go back to center and then turn the opposite direction of the front wheels.

      • 0 avatar

        Nissan also had the Super-HICAS 4 wheel steering on the 300ZX and I think on early versions of the 240. 2 cars that were nimble enough not to need it. It added unnecessary weight, cost, and complexity, but in the early days of the 1990’s tech boom, it was awesome.

  • avatar

    So…if I understand this correctly, the car comes with rear-wheel steering standard, and if you want an enhanced version of it, you pay extra for it.

    Now, if the car comes WITH the enhanced rear-wheel steering and all the sudden M-B says “if you want to keep it, pay up,” that’s another thing.

    But as long as it’s an optional extra that you can choose to have or not have, I don’t see the big deal.

    • 0 avatar

      The really annoying idiotic part of it is that this car can cost up to $185k. After paying $185k for the car, they figure that somehow the buyer might not be able to afford another $5k upfront for the rear steering and this is some sort of easy payment plan for the option?

      I think these subscription models might have a place at the low end, but not at the high end.

    • 0 avatar

      I recently sourced some programming to unlock the MultiBeam LED lights on my C class…USDM has DOT compliant lights, High/Low, On/Off, but the Rest of World has a fully modulated and intelligent beam. Best non – HP mod I’ve ever made to a car. I am very sure the guys who cracked this can figure out the steering mod too.

      Do you own the car or license it ? (Tesla excepted)

  • avatar

    Such a gross concept. You make gain the economies of scale by forcing all your buyers to pay for the hardware, then milk the richies to “unlock” the cutting edge feature. Win-win for the company, I guess … I just hope they have so few takers in general it ends up biting them in the ass.

    • 0 avatar

      “I just hope they have so few takers in general it ends up biting them in the ass.”

      I would be That Guy suing them into outer space to keep that server going just for me. No, we won’t settle; I won’t take cash to go away. I bought the $200K car, I subscribed to the feature, and I really don’t care what it costs you to keep that server running.

  • avatar

    tankinbeans brought up a really, really good point. If you’re not subscribed to the rear steering option and something goes wrong in the controller sending PWM signals to the steering motor causing the car to go into full-time crab mode. I bet you’d still be on the hook for the repair. Same with any increased costs if it needs rear suspension work.

  • avatar

    I suppose that this is a big step in the coming transition of the car from personal transportation to “buying opportunity.” Yeccch.

  • avatar

    Good afternoon, this is your captain speaking. We were on schedule to O’Hare at 36,000 feet, but just received a text from the company who made the turbofan engines on this crate. Our corporate license with them expired 17 minutes ago, so full thrust has been disabled. As the PF and together with my PM, we both pray we won’t need a go-around on landing in the thunderstorm over Chicago. But if we have to, well, let’s all enjoy a nice picnic together in the afterlife! In the meantime, 50% discount on the curly-edged sandwiches and three day old individually-wrapped pizza slices! A third of a plastic cup full of lukewarm soda is still free for those with dry mouths. Wish me luck! I snagged all the mini bottles scotch and fewl gret. Tallyho!

  • avatar

    And what about tuners and/or hackers?

  • avatar

    Nobody put a gun to your head to buy Mercedes. Don’t buy Mercedes – problem solved, and not only this one.

  • avatar

    While I very much dislike the idea, as long as this subscription nonsense stays in the > $90K neighborhood, i don’t really care.

    If someone is going to pay $175K for a car and let MB soak them another 575/year to unlock bits and pieces of it, that’s his business.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this a bit like subscribing to something just to start your own car with a keyfob?

  • avatar

    The comments seem to be mostly right on. 3 year subscription fits in with the lease and expected reliability. I suspect car companies will not be happy when they turn into software/IT companies.

    • 0 avatar

      “I suspect car companies will not be happy when they turn into software/IT companies.”

      At the two legacy OEM’s where I worked, IT/IS was fairly terrible [good in places but overall a big mishmash of antiquated systems, and generally regarded as a drag on competitiveness].

      When I left the second they were furiously hiring New Guys (mostly guys, mostly young) to work on New Stuff [in particular Big Data for telematics/etc.] – but you could already see the conflicts brewing between Old and New.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I’m not surprised. We had a 2008 ML550 and after about 2 years of ownership I wanted to activate the Bluetooth feature and came to find out that Mercedes charged about $425 if I remember correctly per year for the “privilege” of using it. No thanks, Mercedes. Gave me another reason not to buy that brand again.

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