By on September 24, 2018

The service doesn’t receive as much press as the new-car subscription services offered by a growing list of premium automakers, but Lincoln’s pilot project did carry many of the same aspirations. It just didn’t carry new cars.

Launched in California earlier this year, Lincoln’s subscription service offers users a range of older, contemporary models — insured, with maintenance covered — for a monthly fee that, depending on where you live, could secure a decent one-bedroom rental apartment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ford’s luxury division says demand for the service isn’t exactly red hot.

Speaking to Automotive News, Lincoln’s director of marketing, sales and service, Robert Parker, said it’s a love-’em-and-leave-’em situation. Besides the overall lack of public interest, the automaker discovered those who do sign up back out after a month or two.

“I’ve been surprised how few people are genuinely interested in that type of ownership,” Parker said. “If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said this is the next big thing. A lot of people are struggling to make the math work.”

Lincoln offers the service via the Ford-owned Canvas app. It was believed that, by swapping in and out of a number of vehicles (MKC, MKZ, MKX, Continental), subscribers might become interested in purchasing a new Lincoln. At the very least, Lincoln would make decent coin off of the 2015-2017 vehicles it preferred not to send to auction. A subscription ranges from $500 to $950 a month.

If that sounds pricey, rival Cadillac’s “Book by Cadillac” subscription service charges a flat $1,800 monthly rate, though users (in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas) gain access to new vehicles, including the top-flight CT6 and Escalade. The CTS-V, ATS-V, and XT5 round out the collection. Subscription services have garnered more than their fair share of detractors, including Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury, who called it a “rich person’s toy.”

Lincoln’s service ultimately attracted people whose car was in the shop, or were waiting to take delivery on a new vehicle. As such, for many the service was used in place of renting, rather than in place of leasing.

“The amount of people coming out after one or two months is very high,” Parker said. “It’s just kind of an interim process.”

What to do? Lincoln could bring the service closer to the dealership, Parker suggests, or perhaps tinker with vehicle availability. Despite the lacklustre demand, Lincoln doesn’t plan on dropping the service altogether — its potential usefulness in boosting exposure to the brand is too great, Parker said. It’s just a work in progress.

[Image: Lincoln Motor Company]

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29 Comments on “Lincoln’s Used-vehicle Subscription Pilot Isn’t Going As Planned...”


  • avatar
    Sub-600

    They should include older models, I’d subscribe to a ‘72 Mark IV in an instant. Class, baby. Only a little over 200hp out of 460 c.i., but a sweet ride.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    “What to do?”

    Make more desirable vehicles, and wait. I imagine the appetite for used Aviators and Navigators will be quite high. I do think using used cars is a much smarter idea. Nobody cares if a rental car is used as long as it’s in good clean shape. This is no different.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    This is like an upscale version of Rent-A-Wreck. Maybe they should rebrand it “Rent-A-Hooptie”, and build them next to Rent-A-Tire locations.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’m surprised this works at all with USED cars.

    Tell you what, price this just over a lease, flat rate with *every* model, but only make X amount of Navis available. Then add 25% for a guaranteed Navi spot X amount of time per month. This up to $950 sh!t for USED cars is just stupid and it shows. Yes you apparently still can offload continuing depreciation and probably profit, just have to get with reality.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Have you actually looked at the numbers? The cheapest lease on a Navigator is $988/mo, with mileage limits and no insurance. When you rent a car do you raise hell if it isn’t brand new?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The program is currently failing because they expect you to spend up to $950/mo and NOT get access to a Navi. Offering the super high margin Navi in limited supply is how you get people in to lease/rent/borrow et al. your other less popular stuff which currently loses money on the block which I suspect is the entire point of this exercise.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          I think the point of the exercise is a different revenue stream as selling the cars just isn’t working. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to the product. I’d wager Lexus/BMW would have no problems with these exact programs, used cars and all.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You raise an interesting point, I’d be interested to see if such a thing were to happen.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            This also allows FoMoCo to get revenue from cars without having to manufacture new ones; albeit at the expense of dealers.

            *EDIT* See? It’s about the product :) I’d be interested too. Manufacturers don’t advertise it but many do used car leases as well. Leasing is actually pretty attractive once cars get past that first year hit.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    When a car company’s director of marketing can’t figure out why no one wants to pay $900 a month to rent your company’s used cars, you need to find a new marketing director. And some desirable cars.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Top-of-the-line 2017 Continentals go for around fifty grand, so figure that insurance is $100/month, maintenance is around $100/month, and that leaves $750 to cover depreciation and (gasp) profit. A six-year note at 4% would be more than that, with actual depreciation being somewhat less, so the pricing really doesn’t seem like it’s that far out of line for the actual cost to buy and operate the cars.

      The optics, obviously, are another matter.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        They’ve already depreciated to the $30K mark by this time so your figures are a bit off. FoMoCo in leasing a used Conti is essentially paying for a big Fusion, actual depreciation and running costs are likely about $500. The Conti will likely depreciate further to about 20K and stop, so the slice to lease would be about $10K in I’d say 18 months (to year four or four and a half of life), which is $555. This is the amount Ford Credit is losing in depreciation, so to put it back out at around $650 (say with miles 20K-25K so non-wear maintenance is minimal) would be about break even but still promote the brand. I can’t see this working much higher than the amounts I quoted, otherwise why even bother since new leases are in a similar range. I can’t see this being truly profitable without something with teflon depreciation.

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          Because the article stated that $900 was the top end of the price range, I went for the top range of the numbers for a 17 conti I found on cars.com, and those were ~50k; presumably lower-spec ones are closer to the $650 you’re talking about. It does look like there’s a pile of nice ones in the 40s, but the ones in the low 30s are pretty high-mileage.

          The real question is not what the range is but what they’ll actually charge for the cars. If what they mean is, “$500 gets you a base 2015 MKZ and everything else is $950” then no wonder nobody’s signing up, but it does seem like there’s room for a rational deal within the range.

          I think the real problem is that when people think “used car” they think about the stuff Murilee Martin takes pictures of, not about, well, every car they see out on the road, and they don’t think about a nice car depreciating at $400 or $500/month even though it’s “used”. And they also don’t think about the $200 a month they spend on insurance and maintenance, because that goes in a different mental bucket. So it’s a tough sell even *if* the upcharge isn’t really that extreme.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            In your calculations you’re conflating retail with wholesale. The latter is what the leasing residual, and true value, is calculated on and thus what FoMoCo is using when they came up with their offers.

            Here are some wholesale figures, AWD gives it a slight bump:

            2017 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL FWD 4D SEDAN SELECT

            BASE MMR
            $32,200
            Avg Odo (mi)
            16,362
            Avg Cond
            4.3
            Typical Range
            $28,300 -$36,000

            2017 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL FWD 4D SEDAN PREMIER

            BASE MMR
            $28,200
            Avg Odo (mi)
            23,937
            Avg Cond
            4.4
            Typical Range

            2017 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL FWD 4D SEDAN LIVERY

            BASE MMR
            $20,800
            Avg Odo (mi)
            45,820
            Avg Cond
            3.8
            Typical Range

            2017 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN SELECT

            BASE MMR
            $33,200
            Avg Odo (mi)
            23,713
            Avg Cond
            4.4
            Typical Range
            $28,200 -$38,100

            2017 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN PREMIER

            BASE MMR
            $30,100
            Avg Odo (mi)
            10,661
            Avg Cond
            4.6
            Typical Range
            $28,200 -$31,900

            “The real question is not what the range is but what they’ll actually charge for the cars.”

            A very good question.

          • 0 avatar
            PeriSoft

            28-cars-later – OK, that makes sense. Still, as a consumer, I’m comparing pricing with what I’ll actually pay for the car, not what the wholesale is. So if I see that I’m going to pay $N in depreciation, that’s what I’m going to make my comparison based on. For something like this I’d expect to pay a bit more than I’d pay to buy a used car, run it, and insure it, because my risk of being wrong about depreciation is lower, there’s convenience, it takes less time, etc – but not a whole *lot* more. BMW seems to be charging about $800 a month for convenience, which is too damn much. Volvo charges about $200, give or take, which is too much for ME but probably not for a bunch of other people. What we don’t know is how much Lincoln is really charging, and what people who like Lincolns are willing to pay.

          • 0 avatar
            SSJeep

            Totally agreed PeriSoft. On the surface, the $500.00 monthly which includes maintenance and insurance really isnt a bad deal – provided its not just the MKC and MKZ. If the Continental is part of the $500.00/month package, it becomes a much better deal.

            Of course, at that point it is no different than a lease. In the end, one pays 500.00/month until Lincoln decides to end the program… then the driver has nothing in the driveway to show for it.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          @ 28cars,
          Thank you for providing your pricing data for all these months, if not; nay years.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    The “subscription” concept will be recorded in history as just another example of how corporate hubris is contagious.

    Some bright light in the marketing or sales department at a major OEM “X” has this bad idea. She presents it to her boss, who presents it to her boss, who presents it to the big boss on the top floor. Since everybody wants incremental sales, and everybody wants to beat major OEM “Y,” everyone kinda says “Yes” because nobody is willing to stick a neck now and say “No EFFING way will this work!”

    Once OEMs Y, Z, and W see what OEM X is doing, the marketing and sales troops at those companies think “Oh Shit…we better get in on this!”

    Then, three years down the road, all the major OEMs have a money-losing Subscription program no consumer wants.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So…no one’s signing up to spend over a grand a month to rent a used Lincoln.

    Gosh, who’d have thought it?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      People pay about that much to rent them for a WEEK at the rental counter all the time. But the B&B is always good for an old fashioned dogpile, whether or not it’s based in fact.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Damn, that sounds high even for a luxury car, but regardless…when you’re renting for business and the company’s picking up the check, who cares?

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        You’re right, Sporty, but most of us renters don’t know what we’re going to rent until we get to the counter. Nowhere near the same as what Lincoln is trying to do with this program.

        If I were Lincoln, here’s what I would try….

        Take this program, cut the price by 30-40% and aim it at Buick, Lexus and Acura owners. Send ’em postcards to try out all of the Lincoln vehicles over a month or two. If the challenge is getting people in the door, try delivering the cars.

        I like the idea, but the execution is garbage.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    Put suicide doors on it and it’ll fly out the doors!

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Another unbelievablly idiotic idea/plan by Ford/Lincoln.

    They are absolutely clueless.

    Used (let alone new) Lincolns have about as much prestige – at any price (let alone their delusional, artificially high-fixed prices) – as Kia, and less prestige than Subaru in 99.378% of the nation.

    As for the tard article posted on TTAC today about higher used vehicle pricing despite higher higher inventories, that analysis did not take into account product mix (e.g. pickup trucks and SUVs), it used average vs median pricing, and did not account for higher interest rates, generally, and the much higher prices credit-impaired buyers, in particular, are now paying for alternative financing methods/sources.

    The used vehicle market, in general, is in for a hard fall sooner rather than later.

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