By on February 25, 2020

Recent subscription-related news arising from the bottom and top ends of the automotive social ladder has this writer thinking about freedom — freedom of choice, of movement, and of personal wealth. Popular topics these days, what with the budding Jacobins burning up Twitter with their guillotine fantasies.

But enough about auto journos.

As automakers dip their toes in the subscription model pool, offering customers not just a vehicle but a whole range of models for a monthly fee, we have to ask: to what OEM would you pay a relatively princely sum in exchange for unlimited vehicle access?

Well, access will surely be limited in some manner. Perhaps you’ll have to return that Ford GT after a week, or maybe pay an additional amount for each day behind the wheel. The subscription model offers OEMs a number of ways to milk extra dough out of the customer.

Looking at yesterday’s news about an all-AMG lineup on offer from Mercedes-Benz (a subscription tier that targets customers in Atlanta), one can’t help but choke a bit on the $3,500+ monthly fee. That’s triple the monthly cost of financing an AMG C 63 coupe with no down payment — and at the end of that loan term, you’d at least own a car.

Let’s use that 3x figure for our exercise. While some subscription models open the door to a modest range of lower-priced vehicles for a sum that could get you into, say, a loaded pickup, unlocking the top end of an automaker’s lineup requires more green.

Think of a vehicle you’re interested in. Figure out what it would cost to finance, then triple the monthly payment. That figure will now get you into the entire lineup, from subcompact hatches to hulking SUVs and sports cars. Every day of the week could see a new car appear in your driveway, ready and willing to coax you further out of your shell.

Which automaker has enough variation (and stimulation) to make the extra expenditure worthwhile? Keep in mind we’re playing with real money here — yours — and not a pile of dog-eared Monopoly currency.

[Image: General Motors]

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32 Comments on “QOTD: Feeling That Freedom of Choice?...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’ll take Holden circa 2013, LS7 7.0L ute and wagon sounds fantastic.

    No one automaker in 2020 makes a whole range of got to drive vehicles. Some have 1 vehicle that I wouldn’t mind driving or buying, but two? Maybe FCA? Maybe?

    As an aside I find it eerily ironic to have an article picture of two cars with Chicom 2.0L compliance engines and an article title with the word “freedom”.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    First, I would never do this, but for the sake of the game I think I’d go with FCA, they have everything from 2-seater sports cars from Alfa to traditional muscle cars from Dodge to the best SUV/offroaders from Jeep and as a bonus I’d have access to some pretty damn good trucks from Ram. So, if you’re going to pay one fee to one company for the most variety FCA would be my choice

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Plus a very good minivan for road trips with family and when you drove an Alfa you could give it back when it acts up. I hear the Giulia is quite the drivers car when it works.

      This is who I said I would rather see in the article on the Nissan Switch.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    “Think of a vehicle you’re interested in. Figure out what it would cost to finance, then triple the monthly payment. That figure will now get you into the entire lineup.”

    Using this criteria, there’s no company I’d choose to do this from, because it’s hard to think of a company I’d want to rent three different vehicles from consistently. For $2500 a month I could simply own them all too.

    Change the threshold to double a normal payment (~$1500 a month) and for fairness keeping MSRPs below $100K, Ford (Super Duty, Bronco, GT350, Expedition), FCA (Wrangler, Ram HD, Charger, Pacifica), Toyota (Land Cruiser, Sienna, Supra, 86), or BMW (M2, M4, Z4, X7) start to look interesting.

  • avatar

    A lot of “ifs” for me. If the monthly cost was equal to 1 1/2 times the normal monthly payment of a mid tier vehicle AND if it could be for a month at a time with no long term commitment I might be enticed to opt in to this arrangement. FCA, Ford and some others would appeal. I would more likely use this type of thing to actually shop for a new vehicle. Using the opportunity to try several for, say, a week at a time, I could discover how much I would like a particular model/trim and then make a buy decision from there.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    My first thought would be one of the German carmakers Mercedes, BMW, Audi. Simply for the variety of models from family haulers to sports cars, sport sedans, SUV’s, etc.

    But never one to through money away for a badge, Toyota seems to make a lot of sense. Supra or 86 for fun, Avalon for highway trips, Highlander, Land Crusher for family duty and even trucks if I ever needed one to get that 2×4 at Home Depot. Best mix of vehicles, everyman brand pricing seems like the way to go.

    An FCA subscription like Lie2me suggested would be cool as well “IF” you had access to all the brands including Alfa Romeo and Maserati, and especially if we could get access to some future French offerings. An FCA subscription would be a lot of cars I would never consider actually owning.

  • avatar
    Jon

    EarthRoamer

  • avatar
    AutoPatriot

    I have a hard time just trying to imagine doing such a thing. FCA makes a lot of sense.
    For the games sake I’m going with Volkswagen.
    The people’s cars become alot more attractive when factoring in not paying for maintenance.I’m sure in the fine print there would some kind of extra fee to cover what you think you are getting out of.

    Maybe they add a loyalty program for some of their exotics to make up for a lifetime of payments. VW might could make it worthwhile.
    Something like “Every 24th monthly payment will get you a month with a Bugatti.” For a small extra fee you won’t even think twice right?

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    another vote for Volkswagen. That would get you vw, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Ducati, etc.

    They are light on trucks if that’s your thing. Amorok is the only one I can think of. Maybe something else in their commercial group for when you need it, but I doubt you would want to drive it.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    I don’t see the point of a subscription model. It is too expensive and if I’ve had any bad experience with the brand, I’d not go for another. This seems designed for the fickle and stupid. Buying a new car is prohibitively expensive these days. I’d rather have a three year old used car with low mileage where I can get some value, keep the car value above water, and then have the ability to trade in several years down the line onto another well-cared-for-used product of whatever brand I might be interested then.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Isn’t this what Turo has done, but for a lot less? Rent any car you want for however long you want.

    This is carmakers flopping around like a fish trying to figure out how to grow. Hint: This ain’t it.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      It’s been a while since I’ve checked out Turo, but that was only available in a few cities, and you were renting from car owners. Any day the person could take their car off the service.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    That “triple” figure might turn to “double” if plates and insurance are included, FWIW.

    A coworker recently bought an F-250 King Ranch. The payment is $700. But add another $300/mo for insurance and $100/mo for plates, and the “payment” effectively becomes $1100. (We have Socialist registration/taxes in Nevada. The more your vehicle is worth, the more you pay.)

  • avatar
    dal20402

    $3500 is too much. That’s total ownership costs for two high-end luxury cars or three near-luxury cars. So the price would have to be a lot lower for me to consider this at all.

    If I had to pick just one brand, it would probably be Ford. Mustang Mach-E most of the time, occasional upgrades to an Expedition for road trips, a gas Mustang for solo drives for work, or an F-150 to haul stuff.

    But really I’d rather have a third-party service that selects a smart fleet of vehicles across various OEMs. Life would be great with a Bolt for the everyday grind; a Pacifica for road trips; some sort of full-size pickup for carrying big stuff; and maybe the occasional performance car for fun.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Can I just subscribe to Jay Leno’s collection?

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Nice looking pair of last gen Chevy Cruzes in that article picture.

    What ? Oh… never mind

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Didn’t we have an article last week that Chevy dealers were pushing to have an entry level Cruze to sell again? A simple badge swap, and those slow-poke 2.0 Caddy’s would be perfect.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I know you guys are posting sarcasm but I bet once the “Trailblazer 2.0” hits dealer lots Chevy dealers won’t care. People at that price point would rather walk than drive a sedan.

  • avatar
    Matt Posky

    Hard to say. Enterprise and Avis already have me pretty well covered on the rental front.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “Looking at yesterday’s news about an all-AMG lineup on offer from Mercedes-Benz (a subscription tier that targets customers in Atlanta), one can’t help but choke a bit on the $3,500+ monthly fee. That’s triple the monthly cost of financing an AMG C 63 coupe with no down payment — and at the end of that loan term, you’d at least own a car.”

    Ah, so the all-AMG subscription DOES work out. With subscription, you’re not facing the problem of, at loan end, owning an out-of-warranty AMG C 63.

    See, either way you’re out all the money. But with the ownership model, you’re stuck with the car you can’t get rid of. So yeah, subscription model FTW.

  • avatar

    Any 1959-1961 American car. With huge fins, small fins, no fins.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Auburn/Cord/Duesenberg

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