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July 14, 2022

Ticket to ride – Flexible mobility solutions

Car subscription services are becoming increasingly popular with consumers wanting a more flexible model of car ownership. Here’s a quick round-up on who is doing what.

By Matthew Beecham

For some, car ownership means commitment, responsibilities and hassle. The emergence of novel purchase models such as car subscription is a breath of fresh air for those preferring more flexibility in getting about. So let’s take a look at some Netflix-style subscription models offering consumers a more flexible model of car ownership suited to changing circumstances.

In 2018, Jaguar Land Rover waded into the market, launching its 12-month car subscription service in the UK, known as Carpe. It was relaunched in 2020 as Pivotal, with a minimum 90-day term and flexibility of payments and vehicles on a month-by-month basis.

Volvo’s car subscription comes in the form of its Care by Volvo programme which allows customers access to its entire model range​​. Care by Volvo has two types of subscription packages: cars on a three-year term, with no deposit or sign-up fee, or an open-ended, three-month rolling contract, following an initial 30-day trial period. After that time, the customer can change their car or end their subscription with three months’ notice. Volvo Cars recent investment in an online marketplace, carwow should boost its online sales push and bring benefits in sales leads as well as future subscription services.

Toyota has launched Kinto, a brand dedicated to offering mobility services to users across Europe. Toyota says Kinto forms part of its global vision to ‘evolve into a mobility company by providing all kinds of transportation-related services to people around the world’. It includes ride-hail services and replaces Yuko – which currently operates in several European cities. Kinto-branded services include Kinto Flex, a subscription-based car leasing, “offering greater flexibility and a premium experience.”

Hyundai Motor UK has rolled out a monthly subscription service for its line-up of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric car models. Known as Mocean, subscriptions on the platform start from £339 per month, with the fee covering all motoring costs. Customers can pick from Hyundai’s range of electric vehicles, including a number of different crossovers, SUVs and superminis as well as fully electric models like the Kona Electric.

Genesis, Hyundai’s premium car brand, is also offering a subscription plan. Known as Genesis Flexibility. it offers a ‘cancel at any time’ service.

Nissan India is partnering with Zoomcar and Orix to drive its platform ‘Nissan Intelligent Ownership’ for Nissan and Datsun customers in India. The partners point out that their subscription plan is well-suited to Indian customers’ progressive and asset-lite lifestyle. The model is available in Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune.

Among those others offering a car subscription service include BMW, Audi and Porsche. BMW was reported earlier this week to be putting some of its cars’ hardware features behind a paywall in certain countries, including the UK, thereby making features such as heated seats part of a monthly subscription. This situation would only arise where any feature available in the ConnectedDrive store was not chosen when the car was built. It allows second and subsequent owners to add features as and when.

Car hire companies are also putting their toes in the water. The common theme amongst them is cautiously testing the market through pilots in a handful of cities or limited to a country rather than a wider programme. When Volkswagen launched a bid for the vehicle rental company, Europcar last year, VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said: “The mobility market is changing rapidly as customers increasingly demand new and innovative on-demand mobility solutions, such as subscription and sharing models to complement car ownership.” Earlier this month on closing the acquisition, VW said Europcar will be the cornerstone of the new platform which will cover customers’ mobility needs from sharing for a few hours to subscription for multiple months. Last October, Volkswagen UK outlined plans to fulfil its latest fleet order with an electric car subscription service, Onto. A mix of e-up!, ID.3 and ID.4 models are available for Onto customers to book.

While the pandemic slowed the car subscription market and, to some extent quash our appetite to share cars, such novel and flexible purchase models look set to remain an important tool as the traditional model of car ownership is gradually diluted.

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