There’s a lot of talk these days about vehicle subscription services although in some cases there hasn’t been a lot of consumer participation.
Let’s take a look at some of the subscription programs offered in the U.S. (This is part two of a two-part series that started with "Vehicle Subscription Services' Pros and Cons")
Common features include vehicle swaps, month-to-month payments and inclusion of roadside assistance, taxes, maintenance and insurance.
Access by BMW. It only is available in the Nashville, TN, area. There are three monthly pricing tiers: Icon: $1,099, Legend: $1,399 and M Tier: $2,699.
Icon, the lowest tier, grants access to a 330 sedan, X2 or X3 SUV, M240 convertible and i3 electric.
Legend moves you up to a 440 Coupe or Convertible, various 5-series sedans and SUVs, and the M2 Coupe.
The priciest M Tier gets you the performance-oriented M4, M5, M6, X5M and X6M.
While BMW advertises unlimited swaps (with some advance notice), the subscription customer is still on the hook for a one-time $575 enrollment fee, a limit of 2,000 miles (3,200 km) a month and a charge of 50 cents per mile if that is exceeded.
Audi Select. It is offered only in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There is one tier, priced at an all-inclusive $1,395 per month.
That payment gives access to five models: the A4 sedan, A5 cabrio, S5 coupe, Q5 SUV and Q7 SUV. Drivers can swap vehicles twice a month, but there is a max of 180 days in any one car. Like most of these programs, all maintenance, taxes, insurance and roadside assistance are included. Mileage is unlimited, but Audi Select requires a 12-month commitment, with the possibility to renew for an additional 12 months.
There is no enrollment fee. Perhaps its most unique feature is its access to Silvercar, Audi’s in-house rental program. Audi Select members are eligible for one 48-hour rental per month. Silvercar has more than 20 locations throughout the U.S. That feature may particularly appeal to frequent fliers who use rental cars.
Book by Cadillac. The brand plans to put the program on hold in December after offering it for about a year in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. It may be back in a reconstituted form. In Dallas, fewer than 50 people signed up for it.
There is only one tier, but Cadillac lists the CT6 sedan, XT5 and Escalade SUVs, plus the ATS-V and CTS-V high-performance machines as swap choices. Subscribers are limited to 18 swaps a year, which can still give you a different set of wheels about every three weeks.
However, you are also limited to a maximum of 120 days in any one vehicle, so don’t get too attached. The monthly fee is set at $1,800, plus a single $500 enrollment fee. Like BMW, mileage is capped at 2,000 (3,200 km) per month, but mileage overages are rung up at only 25 cents per mile.
Mercedes-Benz Collection. It offers three tiers, similar to BMW. Interestingly, the tiers vary by geographic region.
Tier one, Signature, comes in at $1,095/month and is only available in Nashville. Vehicles include various C-Class cars, the SLC300 convertible and the GLC300 SUV.
Moving up to $1,595 per month grants you access to the vehicles of the Reserve Collection. These include E-Class cars and a whole bunch of AMG performance machines: the C43 sedan, C43 Coupe, GLC43 SUV and SLC43 convertible. Reserve Collection vehicles are available in both Nashville and Philadelphia. The Premier tier is only available in Philadelphia and will set you back a cool $2,995 a month. But now AMG choices include the C63S and E63S sedans, GLE63 SUV, and C63 coupe.
The S560 sedan, SL550 convertible, and G550 and GLS550 SUVs also are in your Premier garage. For all three tiers, Mercedes says you can swap all you want.
An enrollment fee is $495. But unlike BMW and Cadillac, there is no mileage limit, which, if you pile on the miles, can ease some of the sting of the high payment.
Porsche Passport. Currently it is only available in Atlanta and has two tiers, each with a one-time $500 enrollment fee.
The first tier, Launch, is $2,000 a month and allows access to drive Boxsters, Caymans, and lower-level Macans and Cayennes.
Accelerate is $3,000/month, but grants access to the coveted 911 series, the Panamera sedan and the Macan GTS and Cayenne GTS high-performance SUVs. Like Mercedes, both swaps and mileages are unlimited.
One U.S. program, Volvo’s, still is a subscription service, strictly speaking, but it’s somewhat different in character than the others.
Care by Volvo. It is a national program available only for the S60 sedan and XC40 SUV, with price points quite below the others. The XC40 Momentum costs $650 monthly and moving up to the XC40 R-Design pushes the price to $750. (Volvo XC40 left)
The S60 Momentum is $775/month and the S60 R-Design is $850. With Volvo’s plan, the $500 deposit is applied toward the first monthly payment. However – and here is the biggest difference – there is a 2-year commitment.
Volvo says you can swap once, after a year, and mileage is limited to 1,250 a month (2,000 km) with a 25-cent charge per mile if you exceed the limit.
There are no other costs, so tax, maintenance (up through the 30,000-mile [48,000 km] service) and insurance (including wheel and tire damage) all are part of the deal.
Volvo even adds up to $1,000 forgiveness toward excess wear at the end of two years. If you can live without lots of swaps and hang in there for two years, then Care by Volvo looks like a reasonably-priced alternative to the luxury-brand subscription offerings.
There are also two honorable mentions I’d like to share:
Carpe by Jaguar Land Rover presently is offered only in the U.K. (There is some talk of making it available in the U.S. Costs in U.S. dollars range between roughly $1,000 and $1,450 a month, with no enrollment fee and no mileage limitations. There is a year commitment, but it’s still unclear how many swaps are allowed among the various Jaguar and Land Rover models listed.
Lexus Complete Lease is due to launch in the first quarter of 2019. The only model announced for the program is the new UX compact CUV. Mileage will be limited to 10,000 a year (16,000 km) but no other details have been made public yet.
What Does All This Mean? What’s Next?
Now that we’ve combed through the specifics, many of the advantages become more obvious.
For some consumers, this fits in with the 21st century way of doing business. The apps are readily available on your phone. You sign up, arrange delivery and request vehicle exchanges through clicks and swipes on a screen.
A single payment means no need to discuss or negotiate costs. Your only other major expense is fuel.
For the unlimited mileage programs, you can even dismiss any second glances at the odometer. Whether you need the program for three months or 18 months is up to you. No one is pressing for a longer commitment. And the option to swap rides allows you to customize vehicle model choices to fit immediate needs. (Industry Voices contributor Richard Reina, left)
If enough automakers see some success with these high-end subscription services, they likely will figure out a pricing structure for more mainstream vehicles.
More importantly, they hope that these kinds of subscription programs will appeal to consumers who are reluctant to embrace the traditional vehicle-ownership model.
Richard Reina is product training director for CARiD.com.