Buyers of Mercedes-Benz’s fully electric EQ range of cars will be given an increasingly long list of functions denied them, at least in the USA. This time it’s something called Acceleration Increase, a USD $1,200 (RM5,345) annual subscription.
Locking features or abilities already built into cars unless more money is paid is becoming an increasingly concerning trend in the automotive industry to which Mercedes-Benz isn’t a stranger.
Earlier this year we reported on the EQS’ rear-axle steering system being kneecapped unless owners pay a monthly fee. The “Acceleration Increase” - available for the EQE, EQE SUV, EQS, and EQS SUV - instead uses an annualised fee structure, and a rather hefty one at that (the price of the latest high-end iPhone), for a pretty simple tweak.
Unlocking it basically tells the electric motor(s) to produce full power and torque - an increase of about 20-24 percent - resulting in a decent improvement in off-the-line acceleration of up to a full second in certain models' 0-100km/h sprint time.
Again, there are no hardware upgrades being installed here. Instead, it’s unshackling the car’s already present abilities. You could liken it to the speed limiters fitted to many European performance cars that cap top speed at around 155mph or 250km/h.
While both are cash grabs that hurt the customer, at least the process of “de-limiting” a car is a one-time charge. Here, it’s hard to defend Mercedes-Benz intentionally reducing a car’s performance to use as a carrot to dangle in front of customers later.
These are customers that, in 2022, are all too familiar with paying for subscriptions, allowing automakers to more easily disguise restrictions and limitations under the guise of so-called flexibility and convenience.
Closer to home, we’ve already witnessed BMW Malaysia start walking down this same path shortly after monthly subscriptions for trivial features such as unlocking heated seats, a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay, and High Beam Assist.
At the risk of over-emphasising the obvious, those BMWs all have heated seats, heated steering wheels, Apple CarPlay support, and High Beam Assist already built into them, but blocked off by software unless you open your wallet.
Mercedes’ EQ cars can all produce that 20-24 percent of extra performance from the factory, but that doesn’t mean you can use it. Your name might be on all the documents, the key fob in hand, but we are gradually sliding into an alarming future where your car is never truly yours.