Blank Canvas: Ford Ditches Vehicle Subscription Business

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
blank canvas ford ditches vehicle subscription business

Just a short time ago, vehicle subscription services were hailed as the second coming, permitting drivers the freedom to select from a range of vehicles for a single monthly payment. Proponents touted it as a way for manufacturers to display their wares and for buyers to sample a wide array of cars. Opponents said OEMs could potentially lose money by having all these used cars on hand.

It would seem the latter is beginning to prevail with a cadre of companies getting out of the subscription game faster than an aging athlete getting traded to another team. Fair, the $1.2 billion startup company backed by SoftBank, just picked up Canvas from the Ford Motor Company.

Canvas, in case you have forgotten, was a vehicle subscription company based in (where else) San Francisco as a subsidiary of the Blue Oval. It was directed at consumers looking for an alternative to car ownership, offering subscription terms of as little as three months to provide the use of a car bundles with insurance and maintenance. It was founded less than three years ago.

Fair itself is billed as a “forward-thinking alternative to traditional car ownership”, so the purchase makes sense if the company is seeking to expand its footprint or simply quash a competitor. The company’s website currently offers options ranging from a 2015 Ford Fiesta for $150 a month to a 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 for $800/mo.

Alert readers will note these are not brand-new cars. That Fiesta includes a dose of warranty and routine maintenance with “no long-term contract and the freedom to walk away at any time.” An upfront fee is due at signing and the car is registered to you as Lessee.

Ford says Canvas provided vehicles for about 3800 subscribers in San Fran, L.A., and Dallas. Fair, meanwhile, got its start four months earlier than Canvas in 2017. Despite the small differential in age, Fair has found much more success, rapidly growing its subscriber base to more than 45,000 customers across 30 markets. Existing customers of Canvas will be ported to Fair and the sale apparently includes all the cars.

Count this as yet another nail in the coffin of OEM subscription services, schemes which seem to blow through new cars leaving a trail of depreciation in their wake. An argument can be made that customers who use these services don’t care if they’re driving a new car, explaining the success of Fair versus some manufacturer programs.

Ford CEO and noted sunhat enthusiast Jim Hackett has explained in the past that not all bets made by the company will pay off, including a shuttle service called Chariot that it binned last year after sinking $65 million into buying it in 2016.

[Image: Ford]

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  • Lokki Lokki on Sep 13, 2019

    If this is such a great business plan, why aren’t the major car rental companies up to their, ah, trunk lids into it? They already have the fleets, and all the ‘back of the shop’ infrastructure.

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Sep 15, 2019

    Regarding the be-tatted whatever in the picture: as I’ve said, I think I went into the wrong field! Dermatologists are gonna be able to write their own tickets removing that within the next decade!

  • Wjtinfwb A Celebrity Diesel... that is a unicorn. Those early A-bodies were much maligned and I'm sure the diesel didn't help that, but they developed into very decent and reliable transportation. Hopefully this oil-burner Chevy can do the same, it's worth keeping.
  • Wjtinfwb After S-classes crested the 40k mark in the early '80s, my dad moved from M-B to a BMW 733i Automatic. Anthracite gray over red leather, it was a spectacular driving car and insanely comfortable and reassuring on long interstate hauls. My mom, not really a car person, used the BMW to shuttle her elderly Mom back home to Pennsylvania from Miami. Mom and grandma both gushed with praise for the big BMW, stating she could have driven straight through the car was so comfortable and confidence inspiring. A truly great car that improved through the E38 generation, at which point the drugs apparently took hold of BMW styling and engineering and they went completely off the rails. The newest 7 series is a 100k abomination.
  • Vatchy If you want to talk about global warming, you might start here:
  • 28-Cars-Later $55,218 for a new GR Corolla:"But if OTD prices get beyond 50k there are better options"That's what people were arguing in that thread.
  • Lou_BC "The Oldsmobile Diesel engine is a series of  V6 and  V8  diesel engines produced by  General Motors from 1978 to 1985. The 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 was introduced in 1978, followed by a 261 cu in (4.3 L) V8 only for the 1979 model year. In 1982, a 263 cu in (4.3 L) V6 became available for both front and  rear-wheel drive vehicles. Sales peaked in 1981 at approximately 310,000 units, which represented 60% of the total U.S. passenger vehicle diesel market. However, this success was short-lived as the V8 diesel engine suffered severe reliability issues, and the engines were discontinued after the 1985 model year."I'd say one would be best off finding a gasser to plunk in there or take a loss and re-sell it.