Luxury Automakers Pushing Subscription Option
Higher-end brands offer incentives for affluent to sign up
Much has been made in this space over how car rental companies have jumped on the subscription bandwagon of late, as evidenced by major announcements earlier this spring by Enterprise and Hertz. And for a few years, automakers and individual dealerships have been offering subscriptions as a secondary revenue stream.
While luxury automakers and distributors have also been experimenting with this part of the business model, somehow their dalliances in subscriptions get lost in the shuffle, presumably because of a customer base so affluent it wouldn’t think twice about buying a higher-end vehicle outright instead of renting. However, as some of these automakers are quick to point out, subscriptions are a great alternative for someone who isn’t as rich to experience first-hand what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a BMW, Cadillac or even a Porsche.
For those hankering to take a spin in some of these beauties, here’s a look at what’s out there.
You can go either of two routes with Audi’s Select program, either spending $995 a month to drive such models as its S3 and S4 sedan line or bigger options like its Q5 SUV or TT as part of the company’s Core Collection. Or you can go all out with its $1,395 Premiere Collection which offers a wider choice of vehicles and a chance to swap out twice a month if your preference suddenly changes. Added benefits include coverage for roadside assistance, maintenance and insurance.
So far, BMW’s only program dedicated to subscriptions exists as a Nashville-based pilot program that ranks as among the more expensive packages on the list. BMW offers something called Access, a three-tier incentive including the Icons level for $1,099 that ranges in access to vehicles from the 330i sedan to the M240i convertible. Somewhat more costly is the Legend tier that has its 4, 5 and X5 series up for grabs at $1,399. And then there’s the big-league level dubbed M, that for $2,699 a month enables you to put the pedal to the metal in your choice of M4, M5 and M6 convertibles and X5M and X6M SUVs. Additional incentives includes insurance, roadside help and maintenance as well as an unlimited swapping.
Cadillac’s Book option was terminated in 2018, but now that subscriptions are all the rage, insiders say a revised version of the service will be reinstated before 2020. Whether it will retain much of the old version remains to be seen, since it cost roughly $1,800 a month as well as a $500 fee just to sign up. There’s no telling what models will be available or whether it will stipulate a $1,000 insurance deductible as well as a clean-up fee of $150.
Jaguar Land Rover
Currently available only in the U.K. with some speculation that the service will be available on this side of the Atlantic, Jaguar Land Rover’s Carpe offering include an opportunity to drive the likes of an E-Pace SUV and a Range Rover Sport HSE. Fees range from $1,200 to more than $2,600 a month with an incentive to swap out existing only once annually.
In operation since 2019, the Lexus Complete Lease service ramped up a chance to get into a two-year lease covering 20,000 miles plus insurance and maintenance for a price that’s totally dependent on the whims of the dealership. Some 80 dealers in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island offer the program. Model availability varies according to distributors, but word has it that the UX and its hybrid equivalent are popular with users. Included in the package are an assortment of connectivity amenities, including Sirius satellite radio.
If you want to get in on the Mercedes-Benz Collection, first download the app, wait a day for approval that you’re as good as in, and then be prepared to pay a $495 signup fee. From that point, you can choose Reserve tier, making available the C43 AMG sedan, E400 wagon and the GLE350 SUV for the monthly cost of $1,595. Almost double at $2,995 is the Premier tier, featuring models ranging from the C63 S sedan to the SL550 roadster. The insurance package is pretty comprehensive as well as the hassle-free incentive to compulsively swap out.
Available in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Toronto, the Porsche Passport program ain’t cheap with its $2,000 monthly Launch tier and its $3,000 Accelerate option. The former does offer a wide array of models from the Camns to the Macan with the latter featuring the sportier 911 and Panarama lines. The service comes with a $500 application, but the insurance coverage is complete, as well as no mileage charges or fines for returning a Porche with a dirty interior.
One of the first high-end subscription programs was launched by Volvo in 2017 when it introduced its Care service that includes every model in its line. There’s no tier program to speak of, other than each model does come with its own model rate from the XC40 for $600 and the T5 $-Design at $700. All subscriptions involve a $500 deposit, but those can be made up with Volvo taking off $1,000 for vehicle damage or mileage overage costs incurred during the subscription period. The package for each vehicle model sub does have an extensive wear-and-tear package, but doesn’t cover any damage involving driver error.