NEW YORK – Since launching an iPhone app two years ago, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services has collected more than $50 million in payments via the smartphone, with $38 million paid in 2011 alone.

That's a 127% increase over the launch year, Michael Kanzleiter, senior marketing manager-MBFS, tells the International Motor Press Assn. here. And the mobile phone remittances continue to grow.

Mercedes owners made 3 million visits to the MBFS website last year, with more than
120,000 customers logging in to manage their accounts monthly, he says.

MBFS was the first captive finance company to launch a mobile-phone payment system, Kanzleiter says. About 75% of Mercedes owners have iPhones, and some 200,000 customers have registered on the firm’s website.

About two-thirds of new and pre-owned Mercedes vehicles are financed through MBFS, he says. The MBFS portfolio holds loans and leases for 511,000 customers. About 40% of those customers manage their accounts using either personal computers or iPhones.

Besides being able to check balances and make payments, MBFS customers soon will be able to receive monthly payment estimates on new their Mercedes purchase, or obtain a quote from a local dealer.

By specifying the Mercedes model they are shopping for, and the terms they want to lease or finance the vehicle, a new app will provide payment information, Kanzleiter says. Customers can even leave their email address and phone number to receive information from a dealer.

“We expect more new iPhone and iPad apps,” Kanleiter says. These apps will enable retail customers to receive payment reminders on their smartphones and dealers to conduct inventory audits.

MBFS also is considering launching an app for users of Android phones to receive these services, even though the iPhone app is not yet offered to Sprinter van or Smart car buyers.

The MBFS portfolio currently totals $22 billion in loans to dealers and retail customers.