How the Mercedes EQS Is Kind of Like JNCO Jeans
I like new tech. I don’t like disposable, unserviceable tech.
Gen Z loves their 2000s fashion. Five years ago, Juicy Couture tracksuits were relegated to the realm of uncoolness, but now TikTok teens are posting old videos of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton with titles like “The Blueprint!!!” as they marvel over once-tacky early aughties fashion. Dusty JNCO super wide-leg jeans, cool in 2001, completely whack by 2006, are now fetching sometimes upwards of three figures on Depop. Luxury cars kind of work the same way, but the EQS and other new cars like it might be too digital to last long in the spotlight let alone get a second life in it.
A product of their time, often a showcase of design trends, and engineering ability, luxury cars often find themselves completely out of style nearly as quickly as they came in. The original owner, no doubt interested in the brand’s technological tour de force, eventually dumps the car for the next big thing after they’ve had their fun. The car will bounce around from owner to owner, through sort of a car equivalent of the Goodwill sale rack, until it makes it to someone, eventually, without the means to maintain or service it.
The Mercedes EQS’s interior gives me a really strong flash-in-the-pan energy; it’s so fashion-forward that it’s lifespan of coolness can only be short, until the fourth owner makes it cool again at the 2040 equivalent of “Radwood.” A car is much more complicated than a piece of clothing, but I think the allegory here fits. It gets especially complicated as cars become increasingly digitized, though. Digital is disposable; computers and phones can’t really “come back” the way old clothes or even classic cars do once they hit the bottom of their depreciation curve and get rediscovered.
The EQS, Mercedes’s new technological showcase with its multi-screen interior, will not be able to be maintained forever. This car, after its initial first couple of owners, will end up in the hands of someone who will not be able to take care of it. Whereas an older luxury car might have a too complicated service procedure or cost too much to run, the EQS has integrated basic functionality into a set of ugly screens that most certainly will be outmoded sooner than you’d think.
I’m Car Bibles’ resident miserly curmudgeon. I am generally “pro-screen” and I think a lot of hubbub about the distractions that some assert that infotainment screens cause are overblown. I think a slick and well-designed infotainment system can make or break how good a new car is. I like new tech, but I don’t like disposable, unserviceable tech.
The EQS’s screens seem that way. So many user interactions have seemingly needlessly integrated into a series of kind of ugly screens. But like JNCO jeans or a Juicy Couture track suit, this is what people want, I guess. Luxury car owners want more and more screen. Is it good? I don’t know, and whether or not this much “connectivity” will work well in real life remain to be seen. My point is, what happens when these cars inevitably make their way to their third or fourth owners, will these screens still work? Will they be serviceable or repairable, or will the whole car be disposable, until when Gen-whateverthefuck in 2035 decides that these large screens are cool and repairs become accessible again?
Maybe I’m taking in bad faith, Mercedes could very well offer a robust care plan or instructions to service this thing well into the future, I mean the car hasn’t even been out for 24 hours. Yet, I remain skeptical that it (or any other OEM) will support their digitized products indefinitely in the same way that old computers eventually can’t run the latest operating system needed to do everything else. Fashion is cyclical, technology might be a little harder to revive.