Mercedes-Benz has a new account management app, My MBFS (Mercedes-Benz Financial Services), for motorists to use within their vehicles to review and pay auto loan and lease statements.
For safety, the app works only when the vehicle is at rest. The software allows users to locate a dealer, calculate their lease term and rate, come up with a payment schedule and make the payment.
Mercedes launched the original My MBFS mobile app for iPhones in 2009. A mobile version of its website, mbfs.com followed in early 2010. And in 2011, Mercedes released an iPad app.
"We have received $150 million in payments via that [mobile] channel since then," says Matt Darrah, manager of B2C digital marketing for MBFS. "Every day we are seeing about a thousand customers log in with mobile devices to either make a payment or access account information. In fact, about 20% of our customers' online account activities are taking place with mobile devices."
The in-vehicle app was a natural extension of the company's mobile payment strategy, he says, and the app makes it convenient for users on the lease program to manage their account.
"From a vehicle ownership perspective a very high population of customers are able to own a Mercedes-Benz because of the lease program we offer," says Darrah.
The in-vehicle app is available to customers with a model year 2013 or newer Mercedes vehicle. These vehicles are equipped with the cloud-based system, Comand Navigation, and mbrace2 subscription.
In the future, Mercedes expects to pair up vehicle data with financial data and create offers to customers through the in-vehicle app, especially around the maturity of their contract, Darrah says.
Mercedes, through its Loyalty Accelerator Program, offers to pick up the last two to three payments for customers before their lease term ends if they come in and pick up a new car, says Jack Ferry, a spokesman for MBFS. Currently the car company calls customers to remind them, and in the future it can communicate to the customer directly from the vehicle, he says.
Mobile and in-vehicle apps "could be more relevant and convenient channels to get that type of information to a customer," says Darrah. "We want to make sure that we create a customer for life and it's very important for us to interact with our customers throughout the life span."
The transportation industry is a small but growing market for payment technology. Contactless cards are increasingly used to pay for mass transit all over the world. In November, OnStar, a unit of General Motors, tested the use of Near Field Communication mobile payment app to use at public charging stations for electric cars. And Flash Valet has been developing its mobile payment app for valet parking services.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated a different number of payments covered under the Loyalty Accelerator Program.