Home » Why Mercedes Is Adding TikTok Integration

Why Mercedes Is Adding TikTok Integration

New Project

Greetings to you all on this fine Friday Junior morning. Today, on The Autopian’s still as-of-yet-un-renamed morning news roundup (I need someone to make a damn decision about this so I can move on with my life) we have dispatches about Mercedes making it easier to #influence behind the wheel; Lucid’s gloomy 2023 outlook; the winners in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s tough new tests; and some notable news about lithium. Let’s get started, we have a lot to cover today.

Mercedes E-Class Gets On The Apps

New Mercedes Benz E Class Interior Design (european Model Shown)
New Mercedes-Benz E-Class Interior Design

We covered this yesterday, but it’s worth doing more detail here: At last—at long, long last—Mercedes is giving us the one feature we’ve demanded from its modern cars for years now. No, it’s not buttons. It’s better! Provided you love TikTok, anyway.

The forthcoming all-new 2024 E-Class gets a raft of changes to its interior and technology suite, namely the sweeping digital dashboard from the electric EQ models (minus the digital gauge cluster, which stays the same) and native app integration with a selfie video camera. As I said, it’s about to be easier than ever to #influence from behind the wheel.

Writing for The Verge, here’s friend-of-the-site Daniel Golson to explain what’s going on inside the new E-Class:

Streaming video content is available on the passenger screen, and depending on regulations, it could be allowed on the center screen in the future when Mercedes’ Level 3 Drive Pilot system is activated. What will be available at launch on the new E-Class are third-party apps that don’t require smartphone mirroring through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Depending on the car’s equipment, a selfie and video camera is mounted either in the gauge display or on top of the dashboard, and the E-Class will offer both Zoom and Webex by Cisco video conferencing, the Vivaldi web browser, and even TikTok. Also part of the E-Class’ tech suite at launch is the Zync portal, which includes over 30 different streaming services encompassing live sports, news, gaming and other content.

In-car gaming, native app integration, and a “software-defined” driving experience; this all definitely feels like the way many higher-end luxury cars are going. As Golson notes, it’s especially interesting that this is debuting on the E-Class, which is always objectively one of the best cars in the world but exists in the middle of Mercedes’ range.

(Should we put TikTok in the Mercedes we’re building? Does Bill Caswell even know what that is? Honestly, he’d probably be amazing on that platform.)

But why add TikTok here, specifically? Besides becoming one of the world’s most popular social media apps, the answer is, as is often the case these days, China. Here’s Mercedes’ CEO being quoted in TechCrunch:

“It is highly, highly relevant,” Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius said about TikTok in Asia. “Let’s not forget that the average age of an S-Class owner in China is around or below 40 years old.”

“When we choose all these different apps, we go market by market or region by region,” he added. “We look at what is the most used — music or film [and] so on — and we tried to go down that list.”

Emphasis mine there, because shit. We American mid-life crisis millennials feel like we’ve struck gold when we stumble upon a sock sale at Old Navy. In China, they’re all driving S-Classes. Love that for them!

Anyway, that’s the interior of the new E-Class. Expect to see the rest of the car later this year, and yes, the wagon lives on—for now at least.

Also, if you film car TikToks and this causes you to do something astoundingly stupid, please make sure to send any links or footage our way. We need that #content as much as anybody.

Lucid Doubles Down Despite A Tough Year Ahead

2023 Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance front three-quarter view
Photo credit: Lucid Motors

I’ve used this quote here before, but as an industry analyst I trust likes to say, “Everything’s good until the factory opens.” Basically, making cars is hard. It’s especially tough right now for EV startups, who are racing to beat the same kinds of production challenges that dogged Tesla in much of the 2010s while building scale and trying to beat the legacy automakers who are doing the exact same things. (See the Mercedes news above for an example of how everyone’s trying to get the edge on tech right now.)

California-based Lucid has had its share of challenges lately. The Lucid Air is a supremely impressive electric luxury sedan; it’s also super expensive, and the new “base” model certainly isn’t much better. As good as the Air is, demand for it has been a little soft lately. It’s even had to cut prices lately to stay on pace with Tesla.

Here’s a rundown of Lucid’s challenges, yet again from TechCrunch:

Luxury electric vehicle maker Lucid Motors missed Wall Street estimates for fourth-quarter and full-year 2022 revenue, as well as 2023 production and delivery goals, causing the company’s stock price to tumble almost 10% in after-hours trading.

That’s a particularly rough outcome for a company that’s been battling supply chain issues and has had to slash production targets in the past. Lucid had just been on the up after producing 7,180 vehicles last year, exceeding its own production guidance of 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles. Of those vehicles, 4,369 were delivered in 2022. When the company announced this success last month, shares popped briefly.

On Wednesday, Lucid set 2023 annual production targets of 10,000 to 14,000, which is roughly half of the 20,000 to 22,000 deliveries analysts had expected for the year.

Lucid’s revenue also fell short of expectations. In the fourth quarter, the company reported revenue of $257.7 million, which is quite shy of analyst expectations of $302.61 million, per Yahoo Finance data. Analysts had expected $661 million for full-year revenue, but Lucid delivered $608.2 million.

In other words, Lucid’s got its work cut out for it this year as it seeks to ramp up sales and keep demand going. There have also been rumors swirling lately that Lucid could be bought out entirely by its majority investor, the Saudi Public Investment Fund. (Lucid’s doing some really interesting stuff with mobile energy storage and vehicle-to-grid energy, basically turning its EVs into rolling batteries; now you understand why the Saudis, who don’t want to be dependent on oil forever, are so interested here.)

I wonder about Lucid sometimes. On one hand, the car is excellent and the talent there is top-notch. CEO Peter Rawlinson is probably a genius; he’s always struck me as the guy Elon Musk pretends to be on social media.

On the other hand, does the world need another six-figure EV luxury sedan? Rivian has its own challenges and they’re not dissimilar, but at least that company has the value proposition of breaking into the nascent EV pickup truck market. We’ll see how this year shakes out for Lucid, but I hope they make it just because I’d love to see what this company is capable of beyond the Air.

Mazda, Toyota, Honda Win Big In Safety

There are the federal safety standards every new car sold in America has to pass, and then there are the safety tests done by IIHS, a nonprofit organization that does its own crashworthiness ranking and testing. And IIHS’ tests are generally tougher. It seems like every few years, the IIHS comes out with some new safety test that baffles automakers. That front small overlap test? That one’s a real bastard. Safety improvements like these are part of why modern cars have become so incredibly robust in crashes, but getting the top IIHS award is an increasingly difficult feat.

In fact, the number of cars earning the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick+ award for 2023 actually dropped from 65 to 28 year-over-year, Automotive News reports. Honda, Mazda and Toyota did the best this year. From that story:

Nineteen models classified by the institute as SUVs — including the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Palisade and Acura MDX earned Top Safety Pick+ awards. Eleven SUVs — including the Mazda CX-30, Ford Explorer and Lincoln Nautilus — earned Top Safety Pick+ awards. (Editor’s note: Automotive News classifies these vehicles as crossovers.)

Three pickups — the Rivian R1T crew cab, Toyota Tundra crew cab and Toyota Tundra extended cab — earned Top Safety Pick+ awards.

Two minivans — the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna — earned Top Safety Pick+ awards.

Award criteria will continue to get tougher on automakers in 2024. The updated side evaluation will require a strict “good” rating for both awards A “good” or “acceptable” rating in the updated moderate overlap front test will then be required for the “plus” award.

Now, it’s worth noting that as safe as modern cars are, the focus really has been on occupant protection. Traffic deaths hit a 20-year high in 2022, thanks to a big climb in pedestrian and cyclist deaths. It would be nice to see more of a focus on people outside the car, especially as the self-driving stuff continues to spread despite being often bad and utterly confounding to use.

Why Lithium Stocks Crashed And What It Means For The EV Market

Tesla Battery

Finally, let’s close out with the real reason you all come to The Autopian daily: to talk about raw materials futures. I know it’s what we’re all really enthusiastic about.

All kidding aside, this is an important story that kind of flew under the radar, but Barron’s (subscription required but you can find it on Apple News) has a good explainer on the lithium stock crash that happened last Friday. Now we know why: it’s because Chinese company CATL, the world’s largest battery supplier (and the one teaming up with Ford at that new plant in Michigan) changed its pricing strategy, leading to a $6.6 billion wipeout in value among several lithium mining companies. What the hell?

The battery maker, according to J.P. Morgan and Citi research, will price its batteries on a lithium price-linked basis, with 50% of the batteries embedding a price of 200,000 yuan per metric ton, or about $30,000, for lithium carbonate, the benchmark price for lithium products. The rest of the batteries will embed the spot market price of lithium carbonate.

Spot prices right now amount to 428,000 yuan per metric ton, or $64,000, and are up about ninefold over the past few years as the growth in EV demand has stressed the global lithium supply chain.

CATL’s move amounts to a big discount for batteries. One reason that the company can effectively discount is because it mines some of its own lithium. Essentially, CATL is accepting lower earnings from its mining operations to sell more batteries. CATL mines less than 10% of the world’s lithium supplies.

A Citi analyst in that story sees two big problems ahead for CATL this year, particularly in China, its home market and the world’s biggest EV market: one, the EV sector there is growing faster than demand is (there are only so many people to buy all these cars) and batteries are still expensive. 

Now you also see why so many automakers are trying to buy up, or invest in, lithium mines and operations in the U.S., especially as the Inflation Reduction Act incentivizes local production. Either way, as the auto industry goes electric, lithium supplies and prices are something we’ll all need to pay attention to.

Your Turn

Let’s talk in-car apps! What’s good? What’s bad? Do you care about any of that? I recently tested a Polestar 2 (review coming soon here) and was super impressed with the native Spotify integration on the Android Auto OS. I can’t say it’s the reason I’d run out and buy the car, but it was good.

As for TikTok, I had to look up whether that company’s name has a hyphen in it or not (it doesn’t) before I wrote this blog, so that should tell you what kind of power user I am there.

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76 Responses

  1. In car apps are generally terrible: they require developers to make a version on carmakers usually terrible operating system, and when no one actually uses it, they stop supporting it.

    Now if the cars runs Android Automotive it’s not as bad, because they can basically just use their Android Auto app and port it with no extra work, and push updates like any other Android device.

    Oh and Android or janky made by the manufacturer OS, it’s gonna require a data plan.

  2. i suspect apps in cars are cuz manufacturers think that’s what customers want.
    that same groupthink that decided no one wants small pickup trucks cuz (checks product roadmap) ‘we don’t build or sell any’.
    it wasn’t that long ago manufacturers couldn’t ship cars/trucks cuz they couldn’t get (obsolete) ICs for rolling down windows. now they want to integrate apps they don’t control the API for? madness. it’ll be old real fast.

    1. When you are charging and want to watch something its nice to have the apps but for Tik Tok, why not just your phone? I use Youtube in my Tesla when I am waiting for a charge usually.

  3. My in-car apps are Spotify and Waze.
    Beyond that or similar examples, I don’t get the use of an in-car app?

    Hell, what else could I use other than music or navigation? Literally the only other options I can think of would be some form of diagnostics app that read the OBDII without me having to hook up to it, some sort of raw data reader to complement the OBDII reader, and an in-car track timer or something similar.
    Beyond that, what is there that I should give a shit about?

    1. Not even just a built-in app, I wish I could find an OBD2 app that works with CarPlay, so I could display it on my screen, but I haven’t had any luck finding one.

  4. The only in-car Apps I want/need are already on my phone and connect to the car via an auxiliary jack.
    That’s it.
    I spend enough time avoiding people who try to show me unsolicited, crap videos and memes on their devices. To the point that I’ve given up being polite about it and now just hold up my hand and curtly say “no thanks” whenever someone starts to show me their phone screen.
    Do I want any of that in my car (my sanctuary)?
    Hell no!
    One of many reasons all my vehicles are over twenty years old. Not sure how many options I’m gonna have in twenty years when I’m in my sixties though.
    This shit is just gonna get weirder, dumber and less necessary by then and I look forward to getting grumpier and angrier about it the older I get.
    Now where are my futuristic grass floor mats? Something something something lawn!

  5. Obviously M-B will need to support every single 3-rd party charging app on their EVs.
    Waze/Google Maps so no one ever has to overpay for an updated nav-map on a used car.
    Gas Buddy for the ICE crowd.
    Google Wallet/Apple Pay/Venmo for drive-thrus.
    Of course, music/podcast apps.

    Speaking of podcast….

  6. How about taking some inspiration from DT’s move West and call it the Autopian Morning (AM) Haul. Pick up some loads along the way and finish with “The Morning Dump”.

    Mercedes Benz: congrats on re-inventing a $10.00 phone-mount in the most annoying way possible. This Is Crap, Tons Of Crap.

  7. This should work great! Just like the Crestron TSW-1060 updates a few weeks ago that saw Zoom brick a ton of touch screens. I bet when the background app gets old, it will look dated and act cranky.
    I’ve seen enough dated TPs in conference rooms.

  8. Other than having Spotify through something like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, I don’t see the purpose of having any other app, besides navigation anyway.

    The car is one of the few places I get to avoid interacting with my phone or my work computer. I’m not exactly excited for how that crap seems to be creeping into every moment of my life. I’m only 34 btw.

  9. “Wild in the Streets” is a 1968 movie about a youth movement taking over the country and putting anyone over thirty in concentration camps. As they’re dragging off Shelly Winters she keeps screaming, “I’m young! I’m young!” Mercedes Benz can yell about being young with TicketyTockety all they want. They just look like they’re afraid of getting old.

  10. To say Mercedes Benz is making a mistake putting TikTok on its already too-large infotainment screen is a colossal understatement. This is probably the worst decision in the German auto industry since Dieselgate. I foresee numerous lawsuits from idiots trying to do TikTok challenges while cruising down the interstate at 85 mph.

    I live in the D.C. metro and too many people already drive stupid here as it is. They don’t need any more temptation to take their eyes off the road.

  11. Before reading, just the pic made me physically angry…really? This is what it’s come to? Tiktok (which should be banned soon), selfie cameras! (More like selfish), & too many damn screens everywhere? (Too many distracted idiots on their phones as it is) To each their own, not for me…will continue to enjoy a vehicle for what it is…not one big screen/battery…new cars suck

  12. “I need someone to make a damn decision about this so I can move on with my life”

    Here’s one: “The Morning Dump” is a good name. Keep it. The dump truck logo works, and the only actual poop reference left seems to be all the hand-wringing over whether it should be renamed or not.

    (I’m still gonna call “Your Turn” “Flush,” though.)

    1. Oh, and re: the Flush—I still can’t get into TikTok to save my life. I follow people, but they rarely appear on my main feed. I have to wade through a ton of stuff I don’t care about to get to anything I do there. Sometimes I’ll binge an interesting account or rabbit hole for a while—funeral director stories are a good one!—but for the most part, the main feed is so clunky and off-putting that I do not understand the appeal of the app. I’m too damn old to curate a whole new social media feed only to still have it vomit up stupid or boring videos on top of having ties by the only entity less trustworthy than the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

  13. What a colossal waste of effort/money on Mercedes part. They should be focusing on seamless carplay and and android auto integration with long term support, you know for sustainability.

  14. “Streaming video content is available on the passenger screen, and depending on regulations, it could be allowed on the center screen in the future when Mercedes’ Level 3 Drive Pilot system is activated.”

    This sounds horrible. Video content should not be playing in a car anywhere within sight of the driver. I drove somewhere with someone playing a movie on a laptop in the passenger seat and even that was surprisingly distracting. There’s way too much temptation to look over at the screen when there’s a movie on it. I know it’s been a problem when I’ve been on a laptop in the passenger seat too, to the point where I try to angle the screen away from the driver if I’m doing that.

    As one of those mid-life crisis millenials maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety about new technology, but so much of what is happening in cars seems terrible from a safety perspective. You want to reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths? Ban touchscreens in cars. Actually enforce hands-free laws. Interacting with a screen while driving is dangerous for you and everyone around you, period.

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