Picture this: Drive whatever car you want, whenever you want it, for a monthly fee. Match a model to that day’s activities, just as you match your shoes or the playlist for your driving route, even choose a model color to match that day’s wardrobe choice.
We subscribe to magazines, streaming music and video services, so subscribing to what we drive isn’t such a revolutionary idea.
The newest model from carmakers is the “subscription” model. Think of it as Netflix for your driveway, letting you “stream” your choices, from a convertible to an SUV to a sedan, depending on your whim or your need.
Basically, it’s a revamp of traditional leasing, with the option to swap models during the course of the lease. Plus, there’s an added bonus advantage of no long-term lease commitment, since subscriptions are monthly.
The first brands launching such subscriptions are two luxury makers, Cadillac and Porsche.
Cadillac began test driving the concept in 2017 in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas, along with a test trial in Munich. Porsche is testing the subscription concept in Atlanta, it’s US headquarters city.
Subscriptions cost $1,500 to $2,000 a month, which is about what you would pay to lease of an upper-model and trim level in these test cities.
The icing on this cake is that there’s no long-term lease commitment. Membership is month-to-month, so once you’ve finished impressing the new in-laws or the neighbors, you can go back to driving Old Breakdown.
There’s no rule that says you have to live in a subscription city to partake. It’s an appealing alternative to renting a lesser model for a similar cost, for an extended stay in or near a subscription city, such as for Snowbirds wintering in warmer climes.
The ability to swap models at whim appeals especially to millennials, who have shown carmakers they prefer car sharing to car owning. It’s part of the reason carmakers have launched their own car sharing brands, including BMW’s ReachNow and GM’s Maven.
The idea of changing vehicles daily or weekly also is attracting new customers to Cadillac, whose average buyer is the 60-year-old parent of those aforementioned milennials. Cadillac hopes the new format will appeal to both, because drivers of any age appreciate the convenience of being able to make reservations using an app, and a concierge service to deliver the vehicle directly to the your doorstep.
Cadillac is offering what it describes as a “curated” mix of vehicles, including the CT6 Plug-In Hybrid, performance models ATS-V and CTS-V, and the Escalade, along with two sportscars from sibling Chevrolet, Corvette and Camaro. All are top-of-the-line 2017 and 2018 models, including with high-tech auto-drive features.
Porsche offers on-demand access, also via an app, to eight model variants, including the 718 Boxster, Cayman S, Macan S and Cayenne. Upgrade to the $3,000 monthly “Launch” package for additional access to the 911 Carerra S, Panamera 4S, Macan GTS and Cayenne S E-Hybrid. Porsche also includes vehicle delivery under both plans.
Both Cadillac and Porsche include vehicle tax and registration, insurance, and detailing in the monthly fee.
There are two other programs worth noting, a sign this is a real trend.
Ford’s Canvas subscription program is a more affordable $400 to $500 a month, for mid-trim level variants of budget and mid-priced models including Focus, Escape and Fusion. Top-of-the-line models, including Edge SEL and Titanium, Mustang V6 and Taurus Sho, are up to $620 a month.
However, with Canvas, you subscribe to one vehicle for the entire 30-day subscription period, no swapping. But you can swap to another model the next month – or none at all – this this is a month-to-month subscription, with no long-term commitment, making Canvas more like a long-term rental than a short-term lease.
Volvo has yet another version, an upgrade to the traditional lease. You are locked into a specific model for the length of the lease, with the option of one week a year to drive something different.
Will subscriptions change the way we buy, lease or share vehicles? Will more carmakers introduce new subscription models? Stay tuned.