Mercedes-Benz mbrace Plus: Worth the cost?

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Kevin Link, marketing head at Hughes Telematics, punched a button in the overhead console of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon. He was in the driver’s seat; I sat shotgun. It was around 11 a.m. on the second media day at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show, and a few journalists still trolled the Mercedes display outside our car.
 
Moments later, the E-Class patched through a perky operator. She asked Link what he’d like. He wanted coffee. She sent directions to the nearest Starbucks to the car’s navigation system. Anything else?
 
I pitched a curveball: Say, what’s Google stock running at right now? Could we buy some shares?
 
A moment of silence.
 
She piped up: “As of 10:54, I have the price of Google at $613.39, which is down $3.06 today.”
 
“Would you like to buy any?” Link said, grinning. Not right now, I replied.
 
So it goes with Mercedes’ mbrace Plus.

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Link said the communication service’s headlining feature, Mercedes-Benz Concierge, connects you to the same concierge service American Express Centurion cardholders receive. Atlanta-based Hughes Telematics is the architect behind mbrace, which succeeded Mercedes’ Tele Aid service in late 2009.
 
The mbrace Plus service slots above basic mbrace, which has the usual suite of features: stolen-vehicle tracking, roadside assistance, collision response and remote unlocking. It also offers send-to-car directions. Getting 24-hour access to a concierge, who can find everything from nearby restaurants to next-morning flights, requires mbrace Plus.
 
Many Mercedes models have the service standard. It’s optional on the E-Class coupe and convertible, as well as the C-, GLK- and R-Class. Get a car thus equipped, and you’ll get six months of complementary mbrace service, the first three of which include mbrace Plus. Beyond that, it’s $280 a year for mbrace and $520 a year for mbrace Plus. (The $520 includes all the features of mbrace, which is a prerequisite for mbrace Plus.)
 
Neither plan is cheap; competitors’ telematics packages run a year or longer before charging for the service. Even then, the annual premiums are less: BMW Assist and Cadillac’s OnStar cost $199 a year, and Lexus’ Safety Connect is about $140. Pony up around $265 a year for Lexus Enform, $299 for Cadillac’s OnStar Directions & Connections or $398 for BMW Assist’s Convenience Plan and all three add 24-hour agents who can route you to nearby points of interest. BMW claims a broader array of services, like making restaurant reservations and providing flight info.
 
I asked spokesmen from Lexus, BMW and Cadillac if their representatives can go as far as booking those flights. All three said no.
 
Mercedes’ agents can, but don’t mistake them for full-fledged personal assistants. Brick-and-mortar concierges can do everything from grocery shopping to holiday decorating – for a price. I looked up concierge services near Cars.com’s Chicago offices, and three local companies charge $30 to $35 an hour. Use them frequently, and the annual bill could spiral into the thousands. Compared to that, mbrace Plus, whose flat annual rate includes unlimited access, is cheap.
 
Mbraceiphone

Mercedes offers mbrace Plus via iPhone and Blackberry apps, with services like a vehicle locator, remote unlocking and, on the iPhone app, mobile concierge access. In the coming weeks, the automaker plans to roll out a third-generation iPhone app with a feature called Drive2Friend, which allows you to navigate to another individual’s location via cell phone triangulation. That means no more waiting for your husband to ask the waiter for the address of the restaurant he’s at. You enter his number into the Drive2Friend app, and once he replies “yes” to a form text from Mercedes, the directions to his location are sent to your car’s navigation system. Drive2Friend is included with basic mbrace coverage, and Hughes Telematics says pricing won’t change.
 
Like most telematics systems, mbrace and mbrace Plus have dramatically less appeal if you don’t get a navigation system. With mbrace Plus, you can get directions to your destination from a customer service agent, but you’ll have to write them down, or ask the agent to stay on the line as you navigate to your destination. OnStar’s Directions & Connections service packs a more elegant solution, allowing for turn-by-turn directions to scroll across a gauge or stereo display in navigation-free vehicles.
 
OnStar also offers vehicle diagnostics, where a telematics system can diagnose check-engine lights and more. Right now, mbrace does not: “We’ve got new hardware coming out,” said Christina Yarnold, Hughes Telematics senior product manager. “We will be able to do some of that.”
 
When Hughes Telematics surveyed Mercedes owners’ smartphone preferences in 2009, Blackberrys and iPhones topped the field, Yarnold said. Android and Windows phones have since taken a growing slice of the pie, and she wouldn’t rule out future integration with both platforms. Regardless what cell phone you have, mbrace’s in-car capabilities remain the same; none of them are tied to your phone’s capabilities or service plan.
 
Ultimately, those capabilities represent a middle ground between point-of-interest-focused operators and full-fledged personal assistants. And some owners may find it worth the cost.
 
Take the episode in the E-Class. Had I been the owner and equipped my account with a four-digit PIN and credit card number, the concierge could have purchased as many Google stocks as I wanted and then booked a flight to the Bay Area and reserved a table at CEO Eric Schmidt’s favorite restaurant for a sit-down with my new investee. (I doubt I’d get an audience.)
 
“Imagination is the limit,” Link said. “Anything that an agent can do, you can do in the car.”

Comments 

Amuro Ray

Good & bad side of the technology in 1. Period. In order to fully utilize the benefit of such technology, automakers REALLY have to remove the driving part, i.e. let the car drive itself.

Imagine - thinking about stock prices, or making decisions on how much to buy, etc - those sure that those aren't driving distractions. This is not to mention the "security" of having an onboard system that can access personal info...

Ivan

Imagine IBM's Watson answering these questions - patient and full information recall...

Amazing technology ! your concept is great. i like your efforts.
Thanks for sharing.

lt

THey offered trail when I bought car, starting from Feb 10 they setup account, but nothing works. Car was at dealer for "system" update, I call 3 times to mbrace tp confirm that update is done. Still nothing works. Call to tech support result in answer "someone will call you withing 24 hours" Very good response for emergency system

Good vehicles, however, should be sourced from places like Mercedes Benz dealers Freehold. Many Mercedes vehicles are sold every month.

I agree with you Dustcarts. I am just concern with the warranty of the cars. How's warranty being dealt with?

RT

I had it as the trail when came with the car. When the trial is over, I called in to cancel. The CS said OK and took care of it. However, I continuously seeing charges at my credit card and call in again. They deny seeing my cancellation and won't able to refund it. After long weeks to month of calling back and back again and waiting for them to call me back in every 2+ weeks (very fast response -MB). They only willing to do partial refund. Very mad and UPSET. This is totally not Mercedes. My tmobile does a better service than this.

kevin

Mercedes Benz is a great product but the fact that I purchased a 2012 E 350 Mercedes convertible and paid close to $70,000 to later find out that Mercedes DOES NOT PUT MBRACE STANDARD IN ALL THEIR VEHICLES IS VERY DISAPPOINTING!!!! I have called the Owners Support, MBRACE support and the Dealership but no one has a good answer for me. YOU CAN'T EVEN ADD IT TO YOUR VEHICLE IF IT DOES NOT COME WITH IT! Mercedes is the last company that I thought would go cheap and not have a feature like this in all of there cars. So FYI the Mercedes Coupes and convertibles do not come with MBRACE STANDARD like all of their other vehicles and no one can tell me why. I wish I would have know before I Purchased this vehicle

Michele

Mercedes Benz mbrace is Hues Telematics now recently purchased by Verizon. Horrible service and very poor customer relations.

Technology is the base of living and technology has been developed so much that it been used everywhere and the best example is cars.But sometimes technology is also harmful in case of human beings as it is proved in Mercedes m brace plus.

Zaxo

This no different then Siri for the iPhone waste if money if you ask me, only stupid ppl with pocket full of money will end up with it.

oldgoldtop

I have a 2013 E350 with the Mbrace trial. Having apps like google and yelp is interesting at first but the 3G system is much slower than my 4G Android smartphone and not voice activated. Everything must be entered via cumbersome text input and takes much too long. It is much faster and easier to use my voice activated phone apps which are also more fully developed. Really not worth the annual price to me. I would not have use for concierge services or other features. The Audi connect system seemed more useful at least for the wifi hotspot.

Joe Raia

we recently had our gl450 stolen out of our driveway and the mbrace call center did a poor job in helping us enable the tracking device . also the police told us that theives know excatly how to disable the tracking system which make the mbrace system pointless MB needs to change this.

gareth jason

Folks, do yourself a favor and IF you want this Mbrace service when your trial "expires" call them and they will give you a deal. But if you are like me, feel that MB is really ripping you off, that the service is not needed because you carry a cell phone, and that their tactics in "selling" you this automatically renewing service is less than good customer relations, cancel the service entirely. The vast majority of people will NEVER use this and $280 a year costs more than a locksmith would cost to unlock your car just in case you accidently leave the keys inside! You do NOT need Mbrace and, as this is my second MB, it is annoying enough that I may just not buy another Mercedes again!

mack

Save yourself the money and join AAA. Much more responsive than these bandits

Dulal Pal

I had a Lexus and now I have a MB. Above blogs discourages me to sign up for mbrace even for the trial period. Verizon has very poor customer service. I do not want to go thru the hassel to cancel mbrace. You cannot get locked up in Lexus. Why MB does not update their technology? I had the lexus in 2007. What's wrong with MB?

Deb

I had the Same issue as reported 2 years ago about refund for wrongfully debited cash from my bank. I also cancelled after my trial in April. Now they charged my account 294.00. Called and was told that it was cancelled and they are sorry for the error, BUT, my account will be credited in 20 days. Whoever heard of such nonsense? Considering contacting better business bureau, my politicians, state banking, and anyone else who may be able to stop this theft. Using my money for 20 days? Wow!

Mbrace may be OK if you want coffee, but if you need an ambulance, at 9PM you might have to wait and wait for a voice that never comes. Beware of what hours mbrace really operates and whether they can efficiently handle realy emergencies. In my case, they could not.

Elaine Shirley

I just wanted to let everyone know what a joke this service is. On Star is so much better

Frank

I am so glad I read the reviews! I have been called multiple times to activate the services with a 6 months trial period. Knowing what I know now, I stick with my iphone for directions, and triple A for road assistance. Thanks everyone for your comments.

bec

my "11 e350 actually came with a 3yr mbrace service. i used it twice and was satisfied both times. have my renewal letter right here ready to sign back up, but you know what…soooooo sick of "insurance" $$$out of pocket that isn't necessary. y'all just talked me out of it and saved me $$!! now i will shop for something tangible:)

Michael Standing

Excellent service plus very useful mobile app.
2014 S550 does not allow the car to be locked with keys in car, motor running or anything open.
This automobile is not just great transportation; it is an experience. A learning curve.
Thank you MB.


Jed

Horrible service, called to cancel after I received their auto renewal charge of over 300.00 for a year on Nov 23rd and still have not received credit, I have called repeatedly and they say they have expedited it and it is processing but still a month later the charge remains, so I have now paid the bill in full and will deal with a negative balance on my card due to their inept service and billing. I am glad I never needed to rely on them while I had the service.

Bepete

I have 2011 GL450 - mbrace made 3 attempts to open my vehicle - and never succeeded. Then said it would cost $150 for a locksmith to come out. I hung up on mbrace and called Allstate roadside assistance - no charge. Mbrace is a total rip-off!!!!

Nancy L

Attemped to "activate" "included" mbrace for 2014 CLA 250. Required a cc, refused to provide. Was told no activation without cc. Told them it was "included" with purchase. Spoke to VP at Verizon Telematics, very rude, Mercedes Benz USA, no help. Not worth the $$ or headache.

Brian V

A waste of money. After 4 years of paying for the service, I finally need to utilize it at the airport when my wife locked the keys in the car (which isn't supposed to be allowed). We were in a parking garage, so the doors couldn't be remotely unlocked. I was patched through to Roadside Assistance, who told me someone would call back within 20 minutes. After waiting 45 minutes, I took a cab home to get the spare key.

When I called to cancel my subscription, I told them they could cancel my Roadside Assistance request. I was told I would have to be transferred to another extension if I needed to do that. She was actually serious.

Nestor

I got my CLA 250 in Dec 2013 and during the 3 months free trial the TuneIn Internet radio worked great, no issues, always had a signal. And, even when the signal got interrupted it immediately got reconnected. Now, that the 3 months free trail is over and I have to pay, it takes an act of congress to get a signal for TuneIn. Even when I get a signal it doesn’t last long and immediately it goes to buffering mode. I called Mbrace to voice my issue and to find a solution and was told that Mbrace is only responsible for Mbrace itself and for the Mercedes Apps. I was told that TuneIn would have to fix the problem. I email TuneIn and I am still waiting to hear from them.

S

Shysters - charged 3 years on card without consent - had to go thru card to dispute it. Another 1 year subscription charged to card. They are no different from some scam directing marketing company who keep making unauthorized charges on card. Calling them is a waste of time - they are very polite on phone, but you'll never see a refund directly from them. I am considering canceling card to avoid misuse of card. Crooks.

Ricky Manner

For all of you who are wanting to consider mbrace, let me give you a blog to read and make an educated decision.
http://settingthetruthfulexpectation.blogspot.com/

michael

Sorry to say that you should not buy this service. I did but nothing I tried with the iPhone app and the computer worked. I talked with they're tech guy and he said the satellite had to be in the right position for things to work so if your in an accident you'd better be in the right place. All the so called professional reviews I read give it glowing remarks. I think they must be paid by embrace. I haven't received my refund for canceling yet but no fear if its not here in the 7days they promised I'll just have Amex deal with them.

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