retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On National Public Radio, Marketplace reports on “a small but growing number of people who need a car but would rather not own one. So they're subscribing – paying a monthly fee to access a variety of vehicles they can change up when they want. The flat fee varies depending on the company, from about $400 per month to as much as $3,700, and usually includes maintenance, insurance, roadside assistance, pickup and drop-off. And in most cases the subscription can be ended at any time.”

While the notion of a car subscription is fairly new, the number of companies offering it as an option is growing: “More and more car companies are offering subscriptions, like BMW and Mercedes, both of which announced new car subscription pilot programs in Nashville earlier this year. Mercedes is also piloting its subscription service in Philadelphia. 

“There’s also Care by Volvo which launched nationwide in March for one of its new compact vehicles, and Lincoln, which, as part of Ford Motor Co., is also offering a subscription service through Canvas.” And, there are companies like Flexdrive, which offer subscriptions and will be available in 23 US cities by the end of the year; it could be wishful thinking, but the folks at Flexdrive predict that while there are fewer than 150,000 car subscriptions in the US right now, they expect it be in the millions within a couple of years.
KC's View:
The story notes that “the American Automobile Association estimates it costs American drivers an average of $706 per month for a new vehicle, including things like depreciation, maintenance and fuel.” I can imagine that under certain circumstances it might make sense to subscribe to a car rather than own one … and whatever reservations I might have about the concept might not be all that important to younger folks who live in urban environments, don’t need a car all the time, and are willing to try something different.

Never say never.