If you’re reading these words on a screen right now, you likely subscribe to more services than you would actually prefer.
Subscriptions, some of which offer access to products that were previously available to — you know, um — own, are par for the course. And as the subscription model has become the standard, it’s been picked up by industries you’d least expect, including automotive giants.
Mercedes-Benz is the latest in that field to start segmenting some of its products into subscriptions by — get this — paywalling faster acceleration for its electric EQ models (including all EQS and EQE models), a capability that all of the affected EVs are inherently capable of.
Pay more, get the same — If the paywall wasn’t enough to rub you the wrong way, knowing that the faster acceleration won’t come cheap will. According to The Drive, it will cost motorists an extra $1,200 per year to unlock the better acceleration. The increase is reportedly pretty significant, too, reducing the EVs’ 0-60 mph time by about 0.8-1.0 second.
This is the subscription-obsessed world we live in now. Mercedes-Benz, while the latest auto giant to paywall capabilities that are already built into its cars, isn’t the first.
Toyota made remote start, a button on its fob, an $8 per month subscription in 2021, and BMW paywalled heated seats in some of its models causing some pretty heated (pun intended) backlash. Heck, this isn’t even Mercedes-Benz’s first go at introducing irksome paywalls. Last year, the automaker shoved rear-wheel steering in its EQS behind a $575 yearly subscription for consumers in Germany. The list goes on.
Tesla has long offered subscriptions in its EVs, though for software features like Autopilot, which require constant maintenance and updates from the company, and that’s the difference: non-additional hardware vs. software.
The gamble — Clearly, if backlash to BMW’s heated seat subscription is any indication, paywalling non-software features inside cars has struck a nerve — and rightfully so. Cars are already a depreciating asset the moment they’re purchased, and tacking on expensive subscriptions to the yearly maintenance, fuel/electricity costs, insurance, and, god forbid, repairs in the event of an accident, doesn’t make the expensive pill any cheaper to swallow.
The move is definitely a gamble by automakers on how far the tiered vehicle envelope can be pushed. Some customers might be willing to fork over the sums needed to grant access to heated seats. But if I were a betting man, I’d wager that most are willing to forgo the luxury of a warm butt once they see just how hefty the bill can be.