By on January 20, 2019

General Motors is readying another automotive subscription service after canceling “Book by Cadillac,” which was deemed too costly to keep operational, several months ago. However, whether that was due entirely to its own failures or related to the fact that the company is aggressively hunting for capital through its restructuring program is up for debate.

There were grumblings that the program’s complete lack of dealer involvement was a good way for Cadillac maximize profits (without sharing them). But, with it failing, it was also an excellent way to incur unnecessary costs. As a result, the brand intends to make its expansive dealer network an integral part of the fast-approaching “Book 2.o.” 

“Book 2.0 really works even more closely with our dealer network because we think there’s a lot of opportunity as you go forward,” Cadillac marketing chief Deborah Wahl told Automotive News at the Detroit auto show. “We’re going to base it off the dealer network.”

The old program’s $1,800 monthly fee covered insurance and other costs, like maintenance. Subscribers could also swap between models with no extended commitments. They only had to order a replacement vehicle online, select a pickup point, and then wait for their corporate concierge to deliver the new car. However, leaving Cadillac solely responsible for every aspect of that plan created problems for the brand.

It’s unclear whether dealers would own the vehicles or simply handle the exchanges in the updated subscription program. Wahl only said the new service will include different messaging and technology, creating a lessened focus on customers being able to switch between vehicles. Cadillac has said fewer customers were swapping between models than initially expected. Though, we were under the impression that was the biggest draw for subscription plans since they don’t make a lot of financial sense to the customer otherwise.

The new program wants to tap dealers to help cope with upcoming changes in vehicle ownership patterns and keep any swapping that does happen more fluid. “We have to recognize that all of us — from the manufacturers to the dealer networks — we have to evolve our models to keep up with where consumers are,” Wahl explained.

The first phase of the revamped program will include pilot programs in select cities, most of which were included in Book 1.0. New York, where the program was initially launched and Cadillac was formerly headquartered, will not be involved. At least, not immediately.

Cadillac President Steve Carlisle said the program should launch around the end of the first quarter of this year, or possibly the second if progress is slow. “We have some things to work out, but we think will be better all around — from a consumer point of view, from our point of view, from a dealer point of view,” Carlisle said.

[Image: General Motors]

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20 Comments on “Book ’em Again, Danno: Cadillac’s Revised Subscription Service Coming Later This Year...”


  • avatar

    Let’s see here. The old program was $1,800 per month…and bombed. Gee, THAT’S a surprise! In what realm of reality would anyone think that this was a good idea? Oh wait, I forgot, this was the brainchild of the recently departed Melody Lee regime.

    And because it was SO successful, we now get BOOK 2.0, which will undoubtably result in yet another resounding success.

    Note to Cadillac: Design and build beautiful luxury vehicles (please don’t mention the XT6, PLEASE), and you won’t have to develop cockamamey (oops, sorry #metoo’s) programs like this.

    • 0 avatar
      trackratmk1

      Everyone is desperate for a slice of the subscription model business. Perhaps Cadillac should consider the fact that successful subscriptions don’t usually involve depreciating assets.

      It’s probably too late to be The Standard of the World ever again, but just build some damn nice luxury cars Cadillac, and forget what the MBAs from Booz and McKinsey told you do.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Cadillac under Johan & Melody kept thinking their products were a Veblen Goods, where perceived value goes up with price — like a Birkin bag. Normally, increasing the price makes people less likely to want the product — but, with Veblen goods, it’s the opposite.

      Alas, Cadillac’s brand just isn’t good enough to pull that off. When you charge more for a Cadillac, people want it less.

      Case in point: the Cadillac ELR was a good car, under the hood and looked great — but nobody wanted to brag that they spent Tesla money for a tarted up Volt with a Cadillac sticker on the hood… … And so the ELR was a flop. This was not surprising, because wishing the standard price theory we’re reversed for your product just isn’t enough to make it happen.

      Background reading/listening:
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good
      https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/12/25/460870534/episode-672-bagging-a-birkin

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    It’s not a horrible idea, and it’s a new idea. Of course new ideas take some hammering out to get right.

    I also think the concept makes more sense from a full-line manufacturer like Chevrolet or Toyota. Projects around the house? Get a big pickup for a month. Road trip? Highway cruiser. Winter is coming? Something with AWD/4WD. Just commuting? Pick something with good MPG.

    But Caddy doesn’t offer enough differentiation for this to make sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The problem is pricing.

      For $1800/mo, I can buy a pickup truck AND a nice daily driver AND a weekend toy and own them all. Yeah, maybe one will have to be used — but that’s OK.

      Or, I could buy a Tesla for that kind of money.

      I love the idea of subscribing to a full automotive lineup, but it has to be cheaper than just owning all of the cars.

      And, no, I won’t pay extra for the Cadillac crest on my car.

  • avatar
    jatz

    There should be Melody Lee commemorative models from Lexus and the Germans.

  • avatar
    gasser

    There already is a very similar program. It’s called neighborhood rental and around here its run by Enterprise, Avis and Hertz. Need a van? Rent one. Need a pick up truck. Lowes will have one to get your stuff home. Want a fancy car for a week or a weekend. Many agencies will be happy to help. The cost will be FAR lower than $1800/ month unless you have an insurance record like Evil Knieval. As stated above, it only makes any sense if you are a frequent switcher of vehicles. For that kind of money, I think that you can get Uber/Lyft everywhere you go for a month and never hassle parking or maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I actually just looked into luxury/sports car rentals yesterday. From what I’m seeing, no, there’s no way you could get something like a CTS for $1800 a month. The rates I’m seeing for similar vehicles are about double that, without insurance.

      The real killer is Cadillac’s own leases. You can get into a 24 month lease on a midrange CTS for like $900. And unless you live in the Bronx I doubt full coverage will be another $900.

      Uber/Lyft is not feasible for everybody, not just from a cost perspective but also from a practicality perspective. Having a personal car is very convenient, especially deep in the arteries of suburban sprawl.

      • 0 avatar
        trackratmk1

        You’re spot on. I used to rent convertibles during the summer on a commercial/fleet insurance plan. The most expensive was an orange Mustang GT, which went out for 200-250/day. The business was a break even. I can’t imagine anyone renting anything truly luxurious for much less than $5k/month… unless of course, you just lease one for way less than this ridiculous Book 2.0.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    US$1800/month is enough money to buy a new truck; a new sedan/wagon; and a used sports car. To wit: US$1000/month for a new Audi A6. US$600/month for a new F150 Lariat 4X4 with the 5.0L. That leaves US$200/month to pay off a car loan for an old Miata or Corvette ( hint: get a gen1 cts-v for 15% of what it cost new and fix it yourself ). The above payments are with no trade-in or haggling, by the way.

  • avatar

    Let us take the worst case…NYC. Now, cars in NYC are either inexpensive beaters, think a four year old Rogue with dents. Alternate side of the street parking, Bike Nuts taking away lanes, and a lack of pavement. This car is a payment, insurance, and assume no parking. $600 per month for the beater.

    The next step is the garaged car. This is often expensive or exotic. I think of one small underground garage on the Upper West Side, under an apartment building but leased to a third party, where it’s Ferrari by Range Rover by Mercedes by Aston. These cars are, say $1000 a month, another $800 to park (yes, per month, slightly cheaper if you pay cash) plus insurance. Most actually save a few dollars by registering the car elsewhere (lots of Vermont and CT license plates down there). This is the only use case that makes any sense at $1800 per month, and is such a tiny sliver. If you can afford that outlay for a car in a very car unfriendly area, you can rent anything you want. Heck, you can join the Classic Car Club of Manhattan, go to the parties and drive a fantasy list of cars for a lot less money. If you just want to go to the house in the Berkshires, you can rent Avis anytime you want.

    The product at this price does not fill a need not otherwise filled.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      $600/mo for a car in NYC is optimistic; ~10 years ago I had a ’92 Accord and was paying $300-400/mo for liability only. For full coverage I’m thinking $600 would just cover the insurance payment, if that. I think in NYC this could be a good deal. They should give you the option of providing your own insurance, obviously at a lower price.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      “The product at this price does not fill a need not otherwise filled.”

      Lucid description of how runaway urbanization destroys private vehicle ownership, completing the anachronization of Henry Ford and his Tin Lizzie.

      Out here in the dairy air, Dodge and Ram are the last rulers of Autopia.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    So long as Cadillac (and all GM brands) concentrate on the sizzle rather than the steak, they will continue to lose. Only Harley Davidson made such a marketing plan work , and even that seems to be petering out.

  • avatar

    “You Book ’em Steve, I’m tired of this bs”.

    Danno

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    On the subject of Cadillac: I got a little “lot time” in an XT4 yesterday.

    I’ll issue this challenge to everyone: go check one out, cover up the badges, and tell me what kind of car you’re sitting in. I guarantee you that you won’t have a good answer to that question.

    What a disappointing, cheap, uninspired little lump that thing is. Yes, you can say the same about just about every other vehicle it competes with. But the same lot had a Lexus NX, and even by that vehicle’s low-set bar, the XT4 is just pathetic. It’s a nicer Equinox. From what I’ve read, it’s uninspired to drive.

    Will it sell? Of course it will. The XT5 sells. The XT6 will sell. And that means the only Cadillacs that sell will be the ones that suck.

    I was ready to go full DeadWeight, but you know what? I’m too sad to do it.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Still kills me that a Terrain (same platform) makes MORE HP from its 2.0T than a XT4.

      Is that what passes for an “exclusive” Cadillac motor in our present day?

      SAD!

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      It sounds like you were surprised at how bad it was. Cadillac has been at this ‘Mark MSRP up to the level where we want to sell’ without providing a car or SUV that comes close to the quality of that price. The foolishness is astounding.

      Volt and Bolt proved GM has engineering capabilities. GM can make good looking concepts. Their interiors are crap – I shouldn’t say that – their interiors are uncompetitive. Everything from design to materials used to the font they use for gauges and infotainment to how carpeting is fitted. They’re improved from 10 years ago, but so has everyone else.

      A brand new Cadillac CUV should have been a showcase of what GM can do. Instead, it’s just another inflated MSRP with what looks like a phoned in effort.


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