When AutoNation CEO Mike Manley said dealerships need to evolve to meet customers’ preferences as the industry shifts to battery-electric vehicles, it sparked an idea for John F. Possumato, founder and CEO of DriveItAway.
Possumato originally launched DriveItAway as a subscription service to give would-be car owners with low or no credit ratings and few down-payment options beyond the “No Credit-Low Credit,“ high interest rates used auto dealers charge.
DriveItAway allows shoppers to choose vehicles and drive them as rentals with no commitment to keep it. Drivers pay usage fees that build payments that can be used to buy the car. But rather than choose from among used cars – in short supply during the past two years – shoppers choose from dealers’ inventories of new battery-electric vehicles.
“We're not in the servicing business. We're not in the sales business. We're in the subscription business,” Possumato tells Wards. “Everything is done through a dealer. We think that’s the way to promote entry-level EV adoption.”
The usage fees from the turnkey subscription service protect dealers’ sales profits, bring customers to them for service and provide them with a used-car acquisition if the shopper decides not to buy. Then the dealer can take the car back and sell it as used. Although DriveItAway does attract some subprime drivers, many are younger professionals who are anxious to try BEVs.
The DriveItAway program allows dealers to evolve their business models, basically remaking the buying process, just as Manley nudged them to do during his presentation at the J.D. Power Auto Summit during the most recent NADA show.
“He said we’re looking at new mobility options and we can never forget that we’re manufacturing used cars,” says Possumato. “Being in the subscription business in some form – either with us or somebody else – makes sense because it gives dealers a second bite of the apple.” That’s because they can service the cars and then sell them as pre-owned if the subscriber opts not to by.
DriveItAway continues to build dealer fans through their EV “drive it, love it, buy it” program, especially suitable for shoppers who are curious about BEVs but are hesitant to buy before they have a long test drive.
“From the day we started, we at CarVision have been working with passion to innovate and offer the best quality vehicles at the best quality prices,” says Dean Cafiero, Owner & President of CarVision dealer group. “We are very pleased to work with the DriveItAway team and their subscription-to-ownership platform for Polestar 2 vehicles, as it allows us to offer new innovation in EV vehicle usage and ownership. We always like to be ahead of the pack in offering customer-pleasing new services.”
The DriveItAway program provides an “infinite test drive” to a full range of consumers, from entry-level to luxury buyers, to satisfy a market Possumato calls "EV-curious" but does not want to make an immediate commitment to purchase. The driver has the right, but not the obligation, to buy the vehicle with their investment applied toward the purchase.
Currently, most BEV buyers own at least two vehicles and chose luxury models, General Motors CEO Mary Barra tells The New York Times.
“If you want EVs to get to 100% or even 50% of the market, there have to be affordable EVs,” she says. “You’ve got to provide entry models in that space.”
Possumato sees DriveItAway as a service that does just that.
“It makes perfect sense because if you're not affluent and…own a single vehicle, there are two big things to consider,” he says. “One is the extra expense. And the second is, what if you buy it and it doesn’t suit your needs? This is a way to remove those barriers.”