Feb 13, 2020 12:51 AM EST
Technology has certainly left - and continues to leave - an indelible mark on the car industry. As car manufacturers embrace connectivity and engineering innovations, and dabble with big ideas like automation, they turn to advances in technology to guide them.
But technological innovations aren't limited to the manufacture of vehicles - it's also being applied to the methods of distribution, and the way people eventually think about driving. It used to be that, if you wanted to drive a car, you had one choice: purchase a car. Before long, enterprising dealerships created the lease model, allowing users to pay for the depreciation of a vehicle in order to own it for a predetermined term.
The next step in the evolution of car distribution, though, can be found in a humble app. "Car subscriptions", which essentially take a Netflix approach to driving, are about to revolutionize the way you think about driving a car. If you need an SUV to take the family around during winter, if your business needs a luxury car or if you simply want to joy ride in a sports car for a few months, you can simply open an app and click "subscribe".
Car subscription apps don't force you to purchase or even lease a vehicle; instead, for a flat monthly rate, they offer access to a number of different vehicles. You simply pick your plan, pick your vehicle, and then you can swap, renew or cancel your vehicle on a monthly basis.
The same way Netflix took a gamble on "access over ownership", car subscription services are premised on the belief that people's desire to drive whatever they want, whenever they want, supersedes any emotional attachment they might feel for single car ownership.
That gamble will probably pay off. Modern consumers value convenience and they value flexibility. Life is ever changing - one year you might be single, and the next you could be in a relationship, with a kid on the way. You might be working in one city today, and then get an irresistible opportunity elsewhere the next.
With car ownership and leasing, swapping or getting rid of your car can difficult, if not downright impossible. But with car subscriptions, a user with a kid on the way can simply swap their two-door for a four-door. The user moving to a new city can simply cancel their subscription, and start a subscription in a new city.
Finally, the reason car subscription apps are poised to make a big splash among drivers is that they offer one major advantage: you get to drive more cars, more often. Want to drive a truck this season, and then a Ferrari sports car the next? Go for it.
It's too early to tell what the ultimate impact of car subscription apps will be, but if other subscription platforms are anything to go by, they could command a large part of the market share in the next decade.
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