Late last year, the people of the developed world were told that, in the future, they’ll own nothing and be happy. Instead of buying things, we’ll simply rent or subscribe to them. Why own a car, when you can simply rent the one you want for the period of time you need it, and avoid many of the associated costs such as insurance and maintenance?
While it may sound like a nice idea, the real world is proving otherwise, as BMW joins a growing list of automakers who have chosen to shutter their vehicle subscription service efforts—at least for the time being.
Access by BMW was launched back in 2018, and was intended to be a sort of test to determine if consumers would pay to be able to use a fleet of BMW models as opposed to locking themselves in to purchasing or leasing just one. The program was only available in Nashville, Tennessee, and although BMW hasn’t put out an official press release, customers who have recently applied for the service have been informed that it will be shutting down by the end of January. A spokesman for BMW also confirmed to The Verge that the program is in the midst of winding down, but that it’s not the end of the story, as the company is currently in the process of developing the next version of Access by BMW. As of this writing, those who visit the Access by BMW webpage will be greeted by a message that says, “Simplicity and flexibility: A new way of driving a BMW is coming.”
Details as to how the revamped iteration of Access by BMW will work have yet to be divulged, but pricing is likely to be a key element. Mercedes-Benz ended its Collection car subscription service during the summer of 2020, owing to lackluster sales performance. Ford did the same during the fall, and Cadillac shut down and then re-launched its Book service in 2018.
Contrastingly, the likes of Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, and Volvo continue to operate their vehicle subscription services, while large rental companies such as Enterprise and Hertz have also jumped in, but it’s important to note that most of the activity remains confined to pilot programs aimed at gauging consumer demand.
When looking at how things have played out in the market though, it seems as though programs like Access by BMW were a tough sell for most drivers. The pricing tiers were expensive, and usually eclipsed the monthly lease payment of various high-end BMW models. Although the added cost meant customers didn’t have to worry about previously sunk costs such as maintenance and insurance, and were allowed access to a fleet of BMW models which they could pick depending on their needs and preferences, the current subscription model seems not to have provided enough in the way of value in comparison to traditional vehicle ownership and lease options.
Access by BMW pricing started at $2,000 monthly, which gave users access to BMWs such as the X5, 4 Series, and 5 Series, while shelling out $3,700 bought one access to the M4, M5, M6, X5 M and X6 M, but, rather oddly, not the 7 Series. Right now, the most expensive lease offer from BMW includes a $1,659 monthly payment for a 2021 M8 Gran Coupé.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]