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Old 15th June 2021, 17:14   #1
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Default Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

I had recently sent my 2013 Mercedes C200 for a major service to Global Star, an authorised Mercedes Benz dealership. While my car was there, they told me about an offer- a little device called the ‘Mercedes Me Adapter’ is being offered for free.
I had agreed for the installation, but due to a sudden change of plan, my car wasn’t available on the planned date of appointment. When I told them the same, they were kind enough to reschedule my appointment. They further went ahead and offered me doorstep installation!

Now this obviously sounds like a reason to be thrilled, but on the contrary, it began ringing some bells in my mind.

1. Why are Mercedes-Benz offering a device worth 6-7k for free?

2. Why is the dealer going the extra mile by offering doorstep installation?

Here’s a bit of info on what exactly the Mercedes Me adapter is (info received from the dealer):

The *Mercedes me Adapter* is a device which is inserted into the diagnostic socket of the vehicle and subsequently connects to the smartphone by Bluetooth®️. In this way, it is possible to read out information from the vehicle. A range of safety, service and mobility functions can be used via the Mercedes me Adapter app.
Information about the current vehicle status: fuel level, mileage, parking location and time.

▪️ *Vehicle health*
The vehicle health section displays all vehicle data and context-sensitive feed in order to provide you the most relevant features viz. oil level, coolant temperature etc. at fingertips. It also reflects overall condition of the vehicle, malfunctions, if any in the vehicle with a short description within the app.
▪️ *Driver score*
The app records driving behaviour of driver and generates an automated driver score depending on braking and acceleration behaviour. The higher the score the better the driving behaviour!
▪️ *Preferred dealer*
Choose and set your preferred service dealer partner. Connect with them via email or call directly via the app.
▪️ *App based*
Connected car features available on the Adapter app. convenient user interface with seamless integration on Android and iOS operating systems.
▪️ *Emergency call system*
Emergency number is available in the app. Depending on the smartphone settings, Customer and vehicle details are transferred to the call centre for quick assistance
▪️ *Roadside breakdown management*
Roadside assistance numbers are available in the app and the you can now connect directly with the Roadside assistance call centre for quicker response.
▪️ *Multiple vehicle management*
You can connect with multiple cars through single Adapter app on their smartphone.
▪️ *Parked vehicle locator*
The vehicle locator is automatically activated at the end of each journey and the app detects and saves this as the parking location. The location on the map as well as address is indicated on the app.
▪️ *Service reminder*
You can receives timely reminders for scheduled services in app and from his preferred dealer for a seamless workshop experience.
▪️ *Dealer locator*
You can locate the nearest dealer no. matter where he is in India.
▪️ *Online appointment booking*
Booking a service appointment has never been this easy! Book a service appointment directly via the app.


Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?-ff7ccb0f59744833b0af4f13f87bf182.jpeg





Now, being totally honest, I don’t see too much utility in there. At best, it is an interesting toy to fiddle around with. At first, it seems as if it’s a no brainier- it is being offered free, they'll come to your house and install it for free and you also get a fun toy. No reason not to go for it, then. But wait!

I remember a line that my marketing professor had once quoted, “Everything is free when YOU are the product.”
What this basically means is that a business organisation wouldn’t give you too many freebies unless they get something in return. As an example, we are able to use social media for free because we give them something that is very, very valuable nowadays-personal data.

With the Mercedes Me adapter being offered free, I can’t help but think about the possible ways it can benefit the company. The overly suspicious and naive part of me is scared that this adapter, plugged into my OBD scanner can be used to remotely wreck havoc in my cars electrical systems. The very thought of an MNC doing this to its customers worldwide is ridiculous, but is something that is theoretically doable nonetheless.

The more rational part of me believes that obviously, Merc is getting some data out of it. Reading their terms and conditions, I couldn’t find anything that would raise an alarm, but I am being suspicious nevertheless.

My questions to the experts are:

1. Are my suspicions reasonable?
2. Should I get this thing installed? It comes for free but I don’t see any utility in it.
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Old 15th June 2021, 20:26   #2
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Default re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Tracking of cars is going to be unavoidable sooner or later. Many new cars come with some sort of tracking built in with an e-sim. There are insurance policies which provide a tracking device free of cost and then your insurance premium will depend on your driving score.

Depending on the device and brand, there can be many benefits for the user like tracking vehicle location, monitor key vehicle health parameters, remote start, remote AC on etc.,

The flip side would be that all your data will be recorded in their server which can be misused by either the company itself or a third party whom the company may sell the info to.

The incentives for device providers can include (1)tracking the vehicle health and alerting the users to visit a service center. (2) Using the tracking information whenever there is a warranty/insurance claim

I have opted for tracker based insurance from ICICI which have tied up with a company called IL Assist. The device records everything about how you are driving i.e. what speed you were driving, how many times you braked hard etc., I'm wary if this information will be misused in case of an insurance claim, but neverthless I went ahead as I'm interested to explore this new technology.
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Old 15th June 2021, 20:41   #3
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Default re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanidhya mukund View Post
The overly suspicious and naive part of me is scared that this adapter, plugged into my OBD scanner can be used to remotely wreck havoc in my cars electrical systems. The very thought of an MNC doing this to its customers worldwide is ridiculous, but is something that is theoretically doable nonetheless.
I don't think that would ever be on their radar However I do recall that Apple used to slow down older iPhone over updates in order to handle the aged batteries.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanidhya mukund View Post
The more rational part of me believes that obviously, Merc is getting some data out of it. Reading their terms and conditions, I couldn’t find anything that would raise an alarm, but I am being suspicious nevertheless.
Should I get this thing installed? It comes for free but I don’t see any utility in it.
One way to put it is that they are collecting data. A Mercedes owner is a consumer with higher purchasing power. Also it could help them in their research or study for future vehicle development. Another reason or supporting cause could be to future proof the car. Most new cars come with connected technology these days and this device might help those who require such features in their older cars.

If you don't see any utility in it don't go for it. But I have to advise you that whether you like it or not, all new cars are connected these days. So any new car purchase will likely see that your data is collected.
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Old 15th June 2021, 21:38   #4
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Default re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TrackDay View Post

One way to put it is that they are collecting data.
Its like TrackDay says. The main motive is market research, for which you are the unknowing guinea pig. They also offered the same to me when I took my car for a service last year.
Basically, the OBD device will collect data about your usage pattern, driving style, etc. Mercedes will collect information from a large pool of customers. Using this, they can figure out patterns in the data which would give them an insight into preferences which are common among their customers. They can then use this knowledge to tweak what features and services they offer to future buyers.
By giving you this OBD device for free, they are saved the expense of hiring market research firms such as Nielsen and Gartner to conduct surveys and collect the exact same data. This way, they get the data for free.
For the customer, it offers a semi-connected car experience where you can see various parameters about your car such as fuel level, overall condition, location, etc.
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Old 16th June 2021, 08:05   #5
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Agreed with the comments on market research & Mercedes getting free data. What Mercedes can do with that data? Well, the possibilities are endless. Know how owners are using their cars, the data could support an in-house insurance arm, approve / reject warranty claims when fitted on newer cars, reliability data etc.

But it could also be free for the initial 1 - 3 years and once you get hooked onto it, Mercedes will tell you "here's an annual fee of xxxx rupees for continuing to use it". Think of this as a free trial period.

Or just that Mercedes ended up with excess stock and is practically giving them away instead of junking them.

Quick Googling shows Mercedes offered them for free in the UK too - one of many links.
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Old 16th June 2021, 08:16   #6
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

There are two things I can imagine using this data for
1) Identify where the Merc owners usually go. Identify a pattern and target customers with similar habits. Sales team can concentrate their effort on such patterns.
2) Use this data for further development. It can be used to make the car testing and validation as close as possible to the real world. For example, mercs might be developed with the need to cruise at high speeds on the Autobahn but what if the car is used only in start stop traffic inside Mumbai only? Have they accounted for the wear and tear occurring due to strenuous city driving? Technologies like DSG will significantly benefit from such data collection drives.

There is no way they can ask money to collect the data. The data is worth far more than what it costs the company to install these devices for everyone. The possibilities with such raw data is limitless.
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Old 16th June 2021, 08:44   #7
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

This is another perspective of why they have given this device free of cost. There's something called "ತಲೆಗೆ ಹುಳ ಬಿಡೋದು" in Kannada. Meaning leaving a worm in the head. This urges the owner to keep checking for the error messages in the car every now and then. Any warnings, alerts or false alarms raises anxiety in the owners and they get concerned. Once they get concerned, they start sensing some "sound" or "behaviour" somewhere and start attributing the sound to the error messages seen.

They can not continue driving the car peacefully then onwards. They will run to ASC whenever possible. This way, some revenue gets generated. All that ASC might do is to reset the messages and send back.

In my view, most of the warning signals and alerts need no action. If there are any serious issues, car would anyway start giving symptoms. So, as I said connecting this device to car and monitoring the warning signs is like ತಲೆಗೆ ಹುಳ ಬಿಟ್ಟು ಕೊಳ್ಳೋದು

If the above is not the intended reason, why should they give bluetooth connectivity to the mobile phone. Anyways, all the information that is required to debug the issues or track the other information would be stored in the ECU memory and can be retrieved through the OBD device available with them.

I don't see any other reasons as to why they should give bluetooth connectivity to phone and display error and warning alerts for the owners.

Last edited by gkveda : 16th June 2021 at 08:54.
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Old 16th June 2021, 10:07   #8
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Frankly speaking I do not understand this discussion around data harvesting. Won't all such data be already available to the company when the vehicle goes in for maintenance (presuming the car doesn't stream it back to HQ in real time)?

A modern car has several controllers on board. More exotic cars definitely have even more. For them it would be a simple task to enhance on board memory to record whatever statistics for even a year, probably more.

Last edited by RedTerrano : 16th June 2021 at 10:14.
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Old 16th June 2021, 10:14   #9
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
Frankly speaking I do not understand this discussion around data harvesting. Won't all such data be available to the company when the vehicle goes in for maintenance?
You might be onto something here. In UK, Mercedes was offering it for older cars (going back 20 years to 2002 cars), while the OP's car is a 2013. Sooner or later, these cars will stop visiting authorised workshops and start getting maintained by independent outlets. Meaning, Mercedes will still get data, even without these older cars coming to the official dealer network.

Last edited by GTO : 16th June 2021 at 10:16.
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Old 16th June 2021, 13:58   #10
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanidhya mukund View Post
*SNIP*

▪️ *Driver score*
The app records driving behaviour of driver and generates an automated driver score depending on braking and acceleration behaviour. The higher the score the better the driving behaviour!

*SNIP*

My questions to the experts are:

1. Are my suspicions reasonable?
2. Should I get this thing installed? It comes for free but I don’t see any utility in it.
There, you said it yourself. This is to track your driving behaviour and ue that data to deny warranty claims; sell your driving quality info (and also your tracked locations) to inurance companies so that they can deny your claim based on "You took your car to the track for a day and so this claim is denied".

Remember, insurance is the biggest scam that Business perpetrated by way of being the only Business that convinced governments to make it against the law to not purchase their product. Wow, if that is not the greatest marketing idea ever thought of, I do not know what is. And, the one and only purpose of any insurance is to not pay any claims as far as possible.

If I were in your place, I would refuse to have this installed, even if they paid me a lot of money to do so.

Cheers
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Old 16th June 2021, 14:10   #11
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Thanks for your insights!

Here’s some more info I found on their FAQ page:

Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?-7fd5d864e86e4872940a1346e203ad50.jpeg

Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?-0fb587ff37504084a72417eff00085f9.png

Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?-c73253a01db64adcac2f24460f636202.jpeg

Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?-6c8735afd4c243188e619302e5d97e59.jpeg
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Old 16th June 2021, 14:23   #12
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post

But it could also be free for the initial 1 - 3 years and once you get hooked onto it, Mercedes will tell you "here's an annual fee of xxxx rupees for continuing to use it". Think of this as a free trial period.
Honda gave me the iCONNECT OBD adapter for free with my car and then two years later told me I need to subscribe to it now if I want to continue using it .

It's still plugged into my car so I don't lose it. But I don't even know when was the last time I opened the app
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Old 16th June 2021, 15:37   #13
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

My view on this is slightly different than some of the views mentioned in this thread (I am not as suspicious about Mercedes's intentions). I work in the field of data analytics and I have managed projects (with clients from all parts of the world) where legally collected consumer data was used for some legally approved purposes. My thoughts below are based on my experiences from such projects.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanidhya mukund View Post
The more rational part of me believes that obviously, Merc is getting some data out of it. Reading their terms and conditions, I couldn’t find anything that would raise an alarm, but I am being suspicious nevertheless.
You are 100% right there. There are two things for sure: 1. Mercedes will get useful data and they will derive value from it. 2. That does not mean something sinister to you. Mercedes is not your opponent and this is not a zero-sum game. Mercedes's gain does not necessarily mean your loss.

I am sure Mercedes can not share this data with insurance companies (unless the terms and conditions say that they will share this data with others; but you have read the T&C and you said nothing sinister there). That is just illegal. And insurance companies can not deny any claim because they got some data from third party, in illegal manner. That itself would be illegal. If we think they are going to do something outright illegal, then all bets are off anyways! So let us not be paranoid about that and let us stop that thought right there.

So what are the legally approved ways they can use this data and what value they get? Here are some possibilities: They will most likely use this data not as in individual data point (nobody will look at your own data sheet and try to understand what speed you as an individual drove that car), but they will use a collective data (collected from many users like you) to understand their customer profile better. There will be lot of averaging, and other operations done on this data. There might be data anonymization done before further steps. Such collective user data is of immense value to Mercedes. They can understand their customer profiles and (aggregated/averaged) driving habits habits. They can use this to better customize their future cars and choose the feature set to offer for their customers here in this region. They can also do something called "churn modeling". Suppose someone buys a Mercedes again. From such data they can identify profiles of customers who are repeat customers. And those who do not buy a Mercedes again, are those "churn" cases. They can understand profiles of people who churn away. Then a recommendation system follows that suggest what could be done to prevent churn. Maybe offer better discounts to those who are likely to churn away. Maybe something else. "Churn Modeling & Recommendation" is a very powerful thing that is done on several consumer databases. Next, they can even predict when you are likely to go to service center and maybe keep the relevant services ready. They can do optimization of their spare parts supply chain based on customer car health data (again not necessarily your individual data, but collective, aggregated data). There is so much more analysis that usually goes into such databases that is valuable to the parent company.

Now is any of this harmful to you? No way. You are most likely getting benefits too. Maybe you will get discount offers just in time for your next Mercedes purchase. Maybe your spare parts delays will be reduced. Maybe few more things.

This is why I said this is not a zero-sum game.

Now of course, in theory, there are lot of potential misused of this data too. But those are illegal things. Why would we assume Mercedes would do something illegal? That would be more of an exception than rule.

As a rule, Mercedes will use this data for purposes such as those I mentioned.

Quote:
2. Should I get this thing installed? It comes for free but I don’t see any utility in it.
Now coming to your main question, in spite of what I said above, I would still say do NOT bother with this. Just for your own peace of mind. Since you already have doubts about what data is sent to Mercedes and how it is used, you will always keep feeling awkward about this device. That feeling is not worth it. You can simply get a good OBD reader (which you easily get for about Rs. 2500 or $50 if got from USA). With that, you can use an app like Torque Pro and you get tons of information and dashboards. That will give you the "toy" you mentioned, without worrying about where your data goes. I have done that in my car and I enjoy doing my own data analyses on my data, setting up different dashboards and visualizations, and tracking different parameters of my own car and my own driving habits. All for the small hardware cost. No data goes out of my device and I have my peace of mind. You could try something similar if you really want to have all those features that this device offers to you.


Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
Frankly speaking I do not understand this discussion around data harvesting. Won't all such data be already available to the company when the vehicle goes in for maintenance (presuming the car doesn't stream it back to HQ in real time)?
You are absolutely right. Lot of data is offloaded to the dealer when the car goes for maintenance. For example, in BMWs, the key stores lot of routine data about driving profiles and various car health parameters. When I go for any maintenance/service, the first thing the service center does is to "read my key". They insert my key into a key reader, which reads all the data, and possibly even offloads the data into BMW servers. I am not sure if they actually do the latter, but the dealership reads my data for sure!

Last edited by Dr.AD : 16th June 2021 at 15:54.
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Old 17th June 2021, 11:05   #14
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanidhya mukund View Post
Thanks for your insights!

Here’s some more info I found on their FAQ page:

Attachment 2167827

Attachment 2167828

Attachment 2167829

Attachment 2167830
Thank you for the screenshots. Would it be possible for you to share the complete privacy policy doument either as a PDF or at least a link to the site? I am keen on reading the policy.

I searched online, I was able to find the privacy policy for USA, Canada, Europe and South Africa. This is specific to the Mercedes Me service and app, not the general website privacy policy of Mercedes.

I was unable to find something specific to India related to the service or the app. I only found the general Mercedes privacy policy for the website itself.

And India as a country (unlike some other countries) currently does not have any data-protection policy (there is a lot of demand from various entities asking for this), so Mercedes claiming that they comply with legal requirements of the government does not hold any value as far as India is concerned.

Thanks and cheers
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Old 17th June 2021, 11:28   #15
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Default Re: Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tilt View Post
Thank you for the screenshots. Would it be possible for you to share the complete privacy policy doument either as a PDF or at least a link to the site? I am keen on reading the policy.
Hello!

You can access the Indian website FAQs at the following link: https://www.mercedes-benz.co.in/pass...qs.module.html

When you click on the FAQ tab and scroll to the bottom, you can read the open source software details.

If you want to read the India specific terms and conditions, then you’ll have to download an app called ‘Mercedes Me Adapter’. It is available for Android as well as IOS. After downloading the app, you’ll see a prompt to start using the app/create a Mercedes Me account, for which you’ll have to agree to the terms and conditions. This is when they appear as hyperlinks. I am unable to share them for some reason, but you can easily access them there.

The moment you download and open the app, you see this screen:

Why is the dealer offering the 'Mercedes Me Adapter' for free?-a07c3ff5adc34fb5a69fb71d0fa08948.png
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