BMW is testing a pilot program called Access By BMW at its Nashville, Tennessee, dealership—and it could significantly change many people’s BMW experience. It’s a monthly BMW subscription that allows subscribers to drive different BMWs as their needs or whims change.

Suppose it’s May, and you want a 4 Series convertible to enjoy the top-down summer months. Then in August you have to haul your new first-year college student 1,000 miles to school, and you wish you had an X5 to do that. Come December, you’re planning a trip to the north country for the holidays; you’re concerned about snow, so a 5 Series sedan with xDrive would make for a very comfortable trip.

With a normal lease, you’d probably be stuck for at least two years with whatever vehicle you first chose. If you’re not a leaser but a buyer, you could buy that 4 Series convertible, then trade it in for an X5, then make another trade for the 5 Series—but in reality, you’d never do that because of the huge hit you’d take on every transaction.

Now, under the pilot Access By BMW monthly subscription program, members will have unlimited access to fleets of BMW models, depending on their subscription levels. (They must also be at least 21 years old with a clean driving record. Satch is out.)

The test program was launched by BMW Financial Services and is being administered by the lone BMW dealer in Nashville, which will handle vehicle deliveries and maintenance. Members can request vehicles using the Access By BMW app on their Android or iOS devices. When the vehicle that most closely matches the request is ready, the dealer’s concierge will personally deliver it to the member’s location, hand-detailed, fully fueled, and ready to go, with personal preferences already set. Insurance, including $1,000,000 liability, roadside assistance, taxes, full-detail washes, and maintenance, is included in the subscription price—although the insurance does carry a $1,000 deductible.

There is a 2,000-miles-per-month limit—Satch is out again!—regardless of how many BMWs you switch to. Unused monthly miles roll over to the next month. Miles beyond the 2,000-mile limit cost 50¢ per mile.

There is a $575 joining fee, but in the Nashville pilot program, that fee will be waived for the first 50 subscribers. Up to two additional drivers may be added to the account and may drive the vehicles. Cars will be delivered with a full fuel tank, but subscribers must return it the same way, or be charged at local prices for the fuel needed to refill the tank.

There is no limit on the number of exchanges members can request within any given month. The vehicles will be either current or previous model years, with mid- to high-level packages.

“As customers continue to explore the growing mobility market, service-related offerings are becoming more in demand,” said Ian Smith, CEO of BMW Group Financial Services USA and Region Americas. “With Access By BMW, our members will enjoy the freedom of personal mobility with access across a broad range of our highly emotional vehicles. Subscription-based services are of emerging interest for our customers, and we’re excited to be offering a mobility service to meet their individual and evolving needs.”

In the pilot program now underway in Nashville, Access By BMW will be limited to two tiers, at least for now. More tiers may be added later with a broader range of BMW vehicles, but at the moment, it’s two tiers. The “Legend” tier costs $2,000 per month and includes BMW sedans, coupes, convertibles, and X vehicles such as the 4 Series convertible, 5 Series sedan, 530e iPerformance plug-in-hybrid sedan, X5 Sports Activity Vehicle, X540e iPerformance plug-in hybrid SAV, and the M2 coupe.

The M tier may be more exciting and exhilarating—and it will definitely be more expensive. At $3,700 per month, subscribers will have access to the M4 convertible, M5 sedan, M6 convertible, X5 M, and X6 M. Oh, great googly-moogly!

Subscribers at a higher tier may also choose to swap to a BMW from a lower tier, with a commensurate drop in tier price as long as the customer has the lower-tier vehicle.

Ian Smith pointed out , “A pilot program is a great opportunity for us to learn. In the future, the nationwide network of BMW dealers will be integral to the success of Access by BMW. We will depend heavily on their close collaboration to continue to meet and exceed consumer expectations, and to ensure the sustainable development of this new business model.”

While the launch of the Access by BMW pilot program is exciting, there were a few points not included in the BMW Financial Services press release. It didn’t mention the size of the pool of cars for each tier, or what happens when the car requested is not available. Will there be any restrictions in the contract, like no track or competition, foiling those subscribers who request an M2 in time for an autocross or driving school? We do know that BMW has the ability to track data points relevant to the vehicle’s history, so there’s that.

The official Access By BMW app is now available for download, even if you’re not in Nashville. However, it asks for your ZIP code, and if it’s not near Nashville, you won’t get much farther. More information is available at www.AccessByBMW.com.

Well, $2,000 a month is a lot of money. $3,700 is a lot more. If you’re normally happy buying a BMW you like and keeping it for five or ten years, then Access By BMW may not be your cup of tea. Likewise, if your most-desired BMW is powered by diesel fuel—for example, you might want an X5d for towing a boat, and it may not make the menu. On the other hand, BMW owners or leasers who frequently turn over their vehicles might see the attraction in a fixed fee for an unlimited number of BMW swaps and a total of 24,000 miles per year.

Just as app-based car-hailing services have become normal, car-swapping subscriptions may also become popular. BMW is trying to ensure that as the automotive market becomes more diverse, it claims a big share of the inevitable premium mobility-services segment.—Scott Blazey 

[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]

 

 

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