Vehicle subscription is a service where a customer pays a recurring fee for the right to use one or more automotive vehicles. Some vehicle subscriptions offer insurance and maintenance as part of the subscription fee; other subscriptions allow the subscriber to switch between different vehicles during their subscription period. Industry commentators consider vehicle subscription to be an alternative to owning or leasing a vehicle.
Vehicle subscriptions have been available since 2010 when Rima Braden of Autosource, LLC offered a short-term flexible auto acquisition program from his dealership in Honolulu, Hawaii that he coined "Flexlease". Rebranded as "Carousel" in 2013, the program was restricted to the city and county of Honolulu and remains in operation today. In 2014 flexdrive, now jointly owned by Cox Automotive and Holman Enterprises, launched. Clutch Technologies, a start-up, launched a subscription service for consumers in Atlanta in mid-2014; Flow Automotive Companies was the first automotive dealership to offer a subscription service, launching Drive Flow in Winston-Salem in 2016, using Clutch's technology platform. 2017 saw several automotive manufacturers announce and launch subscription services, including Book by Cadillac, Porsche Passport, Care by Volvo and Canvas (backed by Ford Motor Company). By 2018, a number of startups and automotive dealership companies had launched subscriptions in multiple markets  and flexdrive became the first U.S.-based car subscription company to support dealerships and fleet operators stateside and globally through its partnership with Dribe in Denmark.
Vehicle subscriptions are a type of subscription business model where a customer pays a periodic fee for the use of one or more vehicles. The difference between a vehicle subscription and buying a vehicle is that the subscription service retains ownership of the vehicle. While vehicle subscriptions and traditional automotive leases both involve recurring payments, many subscription services offer more flexibility in terms of minimum term and the ability to swap between vehicles. The main difference between vehicle subscriptions and vehicle or car rental is that most subscriptions are designed to offer full-time possession of a vehicle such that the subscription replaces the customer's primary vehicle, whereas rental involves the effort of procuring vehicles for specific dates or trips.
Vehicle subscriptions have been variously been identified as part of the "sharing economy" or part of the "subscription economy". Vehicle subscriptions have also been classified as a form of "transportation-as-a-service" and as a form of "mobility-as-a-service".
Edmunds.com observes that there is a wide variety in the types of vehicle subscriptions that are available, such that many different customer needs can be met across the various services. Most vehicle subscriptions allow customers to pay a flat periodic fee, typically on a monthly basis. Whereas some subscription offerings have no minimum term (e.g., Book by Cadillac), others do have a minimum term (e.g., Care by Volvo launched with a two-year minimum term). Vehicle subscriptions include flat-rate, no-haggle pricing. Prospective customers typically sign-up using an app. The monthly fee may include insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. Some services include a mileage limit and some offer unlimited mileage. Several services, such as Carousel, Porsche Passport and Book by Cadillac, offer the option to swap between different types of vehicles. Some services offer unlimited swaps and some restrict the number of swaps.
Types of providers and their business models
Vehicle subscriptions are offered by several different categories of company. Each category is pursuing a slightly different business model.
Several automotive manufacturers and brands offer or have announced vehicle subscriptions, including Porsche, Volvo, Cadillac, Hyundai, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus and Ford. These services offer subscribers vehicles from a single brand or, in the case of Volvo, a single vehicle. While initial launches have tended to focus on one or two cities, there is evidence that the manufacturers will eventually offer their services more broadly: for example Care by Volvo was immediately available across the country and Book by Cadillac has expanded beyond its original launch market of New York City.
The manufacturers have announced various objectives for these programs. Volvo has described the objective of Care by Volvo as to provide convenience by offering access, insurance, maintenance and support within a single package. Cadillac has described the objective of Book by Cadillac as being to grow the number of Cadillac drivers, particularly those who are new to the brand. Porsche has described their Passport service as a way to cater to customers with highly varied lives. Ford has described Canvas as a way to grow the number of Ford drivers while also controlling the number of used vehicles hitting automotive auctions.
A number of automotive dealerships have launched vehicle subscriptions focused on the markets where they have stores. For example, the Jeff Wyler Automotive Group offers a subscription service, Wyler Fastlane, in their home market of Cincinnati. The services offered by these dealerships typically include vehicles from several different brands offered by their stores, allowing customers to drive a wide variety of vehicles.
Dealerships have talked about using subscription to meet customer needs better and to expand their role in serving drivers. Flow Automotive has talked about allowing customers to drive different types of cars as their lifestyle demands. The managers of Park Place Select in Dallas talked about transforming from a dealership to a "full-fledged transportation service".
Inride, in the Greater Washington DC / Baltimore area, launched in the summer of 2018 by auto dealer Alex Perdikis, as the very first vehicle subscription service in the Washington DC area. Autoblog.com recently featured inride alongside manufacturer backed ventures as one of the leading vehicle subscription companies in the United States.
Carousel, based in Honolulu, Hawaii offer a "worry free" driving program that allows its members to change vehicles every six months during the span of a two-year membership. With a wide selection of pre-owned vehicles that are categorized by tiers, drivers have the option of driving vehicles of all makes,models and trim levels or simply turning their vehicles in when they don't need it and suspending their membership.
Start-ups and corporate-backed ventures
A large number of start-ups have been created to offer vehicle subscription services. One early pioneer in the vehicle subscription space was Joule, which won the a TechCrunch Seattle pitch competition in 2015. Other USA-based start-ups include Carma, which is a graduate of the Techstars incubator program, Borrow, a subscription service focused exclusively on electric vehicles, and Mobiliti. Several vehicle subscription start-ups have been founded in Europe, including Wagonex, Cocoon Vehicles and Drover, from the United Kingdom, and Dribe and Bilabonnement, both from Denmark. In 2017, Gurgaon based startup Revv, launched Asia's first monthly multi-brand car subscription program Switch, across 15 cities in India.
Start-up Clutch Technologies has operated a subscription service in Atlanta since 2014. However, Clutch's primary business is to provide software for dealerships, manufacturers and others to offer subscriptions.
Several established companies have created new business units that are offering vehicle subscriptions. In the US, Cox Enterprises launched flexdrive. In Europe, LeasePlan, a vehicle leasing company, will offer subscriptions with their CarNext.com platform.
Cluno, a multi-brand car subscription service operating in Germany, was founded in October 2017. Cluno offers a vehicle subscription model with an all-inclusive monthly fee which includes everything but gas. The monthly fee depends on the vehicle. After the minimum term of 6 months, Cluno offers the opportunity to switch to another model or pause the subscription in a three months’ notice. On October 31, 2018 Cluno launched the first car subscription App for iOS in Germany which allows browsing, select and subscribe to a car per digital signature within only a few minutes.
A first car subscription service in Czech Republic, called Driveto Klub, was launched in October 2018 by Driveto. Driveto was founded in Prague in 2017 and started as an online aggregator of operating lease offers. The majority of the start-up is owned by Miton, an online investment group from Jablonec nad Nisou. The subscription service offers mobility with an all-inclusive monthly fee, excluding gas. There is no minimal contract length and the car can be switched for different one or returned any time. Besides the regular monthly fee, there is a one-time starting fee at the beginning of the contract. Driveto Klub inventory is multi brand and offers different kinds of cars from SUV to roadster and is updated every day.
Australia's car subscription services include Carbar, launched in late 2016, and HelloCars and Carly, both launched in early 2019. All services include registration, insurance and maintenance, such as servicing. Subscribers can also start, change or stop their subscription at any time, as there are no long term lock-in contracts, finance or leasing agreements. As registered Victorian and NSW motor dealers, Carbar and HelloCars subscription vehicles are owned and operated by their respective companies while Carly utilises peer-to-peer customer vehicles offered in partnership with sister company DriveMyCar Rentals Pty Ltd.
CARIFY, the biggest car subscription platform in Switzerland, was founded in September 2019 by Sergio Studer and Raffael Fiechter. CARIFY imposes no minimum term. Their monthly fee includes everything but gas. In February 2020, CARIFY was awarded to offer the cheapest car subscription in Switzerland by Comparis.
List of vehicle subscription services
|Book by Cadillac||General Motors||Manufacturer||New York City, Dallas and Los Angeles, USA||Active|
|Borrow||n/a||Start-up||Los Angeles, CA||Active|
|Canvas||Ford||Manufacturer||San Francisco and Los Angeles, USA||Active|
|Care by Volvo||Volvo||Manufacturer||USA||Active|
|Carbar||Carbar Holdings Pty Ltd||Start-up||Melbourne, Australia||Active|
|Carly||Collaborate Corporation (ASX:CL8)||Start-up||Sydney, Australia||Active|
|Carma||n/a||Start-up||Chicago, Columbus, USA||Active|
|Car Subscriptions||Cocoon Group Ltd||Corporate venture||United Kingdom||Active|
|Cocooned||Cocoon Vehicles Ltd||Corporate venture||United Kingdom||Active|
|Drive Flow||Flow Automotive Companies||Dealership||Winston-Salem and||Active|
|Drive Germain||Germain Motor Company||Dealership||Columbus, USA||Active|
|Drive Options||Bernie Moreno Companies||Dealership||Cleveland, USA||Active|
|flexdrive||Cox Automotive & Holman Enterprises||Corporate Venture||Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Phoenix, Rhode Island, Sacramento, South Florida, Virginia ||Active|
|Flexigo Cars||Cocoon Vehicles Ltd||Corporate venture||United Kingdom||Active|
|Flexed||Autohorn Fleet Services||Corporate venture||United Kingdom||Active|
|FlexWheels||Warren Henry Auto Group||Dealership||Miami, USA||Active|
|HelloCars||Innovate Automotive Pty Ltd||Dealership||Sydney, Australia||Active|
|inride||Alex Perdikis / Koons of Silver Spring, Inc.||Start-up/ Dealership||Silver Spring, MD & Greater Washington D.C. and Baltimore area||Active|
|Lux.Car||H & H Automotive||Dealership||Omaha, USA||Active|
|Park Place Select||Park Place||Dealership||Dallas, USA||Active|
|Mobiliti||n/a||Start-up||Metro Detroit, Austin, North Jersey, Central PA, USA||Active|
|MotorEnvy||MotorEnvy||Start-up||Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania||Active|
|Porsche Passport||Porsche||Manufacturer||Atlanta, USA||Active|
|Car Subscriptions by STL||Short Term Leasing Ltd||Corporate venture||United Kingdom||Active|
|Skip's Flex||Skip's||Start-up||New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware||Active|
|Subscribe & Drive||Cocoon Vehicles Ltd||Corporate venture||United Kingdom||Active|
|Switch||Revv||Start-up||Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi NCR, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Mangalore, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Visakhapatnam, Mysore & Coimbatore in India||Active|
|Turn||Autogravity||Start-up||Greater Los Angeles, CA and San Diego, CA||Active|
|Wyler Fastlane||Jeff Wyler Automotive||Dealership||Cincinnati, USA||Closed|
|ZipCar Commuter||Avis Budget Group||Other||Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C in the USA; Toronto, Canada||Active|
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