Mercedes-Benz has put a paywall on EV performance, requiring extra cost to unlock the full potential of its all-electric sports cars. You can imagine this won’t go over well with environmentalists pushing for automakers to give the push to switch to all EVs all they’ve got in time to mitigate climate change, and it’s not going to impress auto enthusiasts much either.
What a paywall on EV performance looks like
For an extra $1,200 per year, Mercedes is offering an “Acceleration Increase” subscription that improves performance of its EQE and EQS in their standard sedan and SUV variants. This fee improves zero to 60 mph acceleration times by 0.8 to one second because of a higher peak motor output and increased torque.
It’s bad enough that a carmaker would limit the potential of EVs after decades of EVs being looked down on because of their lack of power output. Now, you not only have to pay more for full capabilities, but you have to pay a subscription.
Why automakers are adding paywalls to performance
Mercedes isn’t the first automaker to pull this stunt. Tesla already did this. Mercedes says this is a software change, but basically that means you’re paying extra for performance your car could already manage.
BMW has put an $18 per month surcharge on heated seats for some inexplicable reason. This leads us to question whether automakers understand the urgency to their own bottom line of switching over to EVs and making that as affordable as possible. Like BMWs, Mercedes are already expensive, and why would anyone buy an EQS 450 with acceleration subscription added on when an EQS 580 is already faster and has more extras?
Color us confused. We imagine this is partly a move to support people who believe there is more cache in higher prices because it puts them in an exclusive club. A need on the part of the automakers to beef up their bottom line while EV adoption is in transition, as these cars are expensive to develop and not very profitable yet to sell, regardless of sticker price.
Why put a paywall on EV performance?
Tesla already charges more for advanced driver assist technology. Model S buyers needed to pay extra to unlock extra battery capacity for entry-level EVs, which also seems pretty sketchy. It’s not just cars either: motorcycle maker Zero charges $1,800 to boost the power of the 2022 SR bike. But that’s an upfront cost. Do you want to keep paying for the life of your vehicle to unlock an extra one second reduction in acceleration time? Or might you just want a better car?
Mercedes already feels a bit floaty and boosted on acceleration, partly from poorer acceleration times than some similar BMW EV sports car models, and partly because their cars are insulated from outside sound to the point you won’t notice going faster anyway. Even with this boost, it still may not feel like enough to call performance sporty.
This is really about revenue models for EVs, and that’s where the only real justification for this pricing model comes out in the wash. Automakers need to make profit off of EVs in order to stay in business, and there is a shift right now pushing toward subscription models for many layers of the automotive business. Think satellite radio, but for your EV technology.
How you can get around an EV paywall
Best option: buy a better car. Look for horsepower and torque equivalent to what you would want from an ICE gas-powered car. Then look at how long the range is to make sure sporty performance won’t eat up your battery range. And lastly, see how many other features come with the car. Compare models minus any performance boost packages to see what the best deal is, unless there is a significant performance or price difference with an add-on package like this.
And then seriously consider the long-term cost of a subscription versus paying out one time for a better technology setup. There’s nothing wrong with paying for an upgraded battery pack or motor if the cost is part of the upfront vehicle price, since you’re getting an upgraded vehicle.
If you find a car you really love and it needs that extra boost to make it suit your needs, so be it, but remember we’re not talking about a one-time outlay, and the paywall is artificially imposed. This is a subscription you keep paying for the life of the car. It’s in vehicle service and subscription models that automakers or dealerships make their money. Whether that offers you extra value to match is something you’ll have to do an annoying amount of math to figure out.
But if you want a sporty EV, we suggest you shop around. This strategy isn’t going to endear anyone to Mercedes, at least outside the brand-loyal set who feels there is value in paying more just to belong to the Mercedes brand.
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