As well as spitting out fuel-cell powered cars, and innovative dashboard displays, Mercedes-Benz has embraced another branch of high-tech: The iPhone. It’s just launched an iPhone app…but it’s not quite what you might think.
Because what might one expect a Merc iPhone app to do? Remote-unlock the car over Wi-fi? Control your in-car nav-system or stereo? Both would be kinda sweet–but no: Mercedes’ new iPhone app helps you to pay for the car in the first place. It integrates with Mercedes’ own financing scheme (at MercedesBenzFinancial.com) and makes paying for your luxury vehicle into a modern and convenient experience.
Or so Mercedes is spinning it. “Personalized and convenient account management” is how the app’s described, and it’s mercifully free from iTunes. It’ll let Merc finance customers keep track of their account balance, request payoff information and even make payments–while on the go. If you’re not currently a Merc owner, busy paying off your car loan from the comfort of your sofa, the app lets you know where the nearest Mercedes-Benz dealership is, speak to customer services, and check out if Merc’s financial package is attractive enough to temp you into buying a vehicle.
It’s slightly odd, if you think about it. But Mercedes’ Fiancial VP Franz Reiner explains why the app exists by noting “we recognize the need for multiple communication channels in today’s mobile environment.” Basically Mercedes has realized that the smartphone is perniciously penetrating many different corners of our modern lifestyle, and someone in the company has calculated there’s a benefit in making the financing system accessible through the iPhone. Maybe it’ll result in fewer late payments–particularly if the app’s smart enough to make a push message alert when it’s the relevant time (though there’s nothing in the PR to suggest this).
What this also is is a sign that we’re going to see more dedicated, specialized apps arriving from surprising vendors over time, as the companies realize that with a dedicated iPhone app they’ve got a unique personal comms channel to millions of customers.