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This article was published on January 19, 2021

Audi and BMW’s US subscription car service shutdown points to a murky future

It's not clear how this will pan out in the long run

Audi and BMW’s US subscription car service shutdown points to a murky future

According to Autoblog and Automotive News, German carmakers BMW and Audi are shutting down trials of their US-based subscription services.

A spokesperson for BMW’s subscription service told Automotive News that the trial was designed to test the viability of such systems, and the company is now away developing the next iteration of the program.

It’s hard to draw any significant conclusions from that, but we can say one thing, the services weren’t working in their current guise. When, or whether, this service will come back at all remains a mystery.

BMW only offered its subscription service in Nashville. Audi restricted its trial to Texas, and has simply stated that it will be pulling the service by January 31. There’s no sign if Audi is reworking its offering to relaunch, so let’s consider that ship to have sailed.

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BMW debuted its Access program in 2018 which offered subscribers access to a whole fleet of BMW models for a set monthly subscription cost, which included roadside assistance, insurance, and maintenance. Drivers could access vehicles via a mobile app.

Autoblog suggests the market for this model of car use and ownership has shrunk. Indeed, with more people working from home, demand could have shrunk, or simply the demand wasn’t there in the first place, or maybe, residents Texas and Nashville just don’t need this kind of car ownership model.

Cadillac is still testing its own subscription service with dealers, and other similar programs, like Volvo Care, are still going. It’s not clear how demand is faring, though.

On the other side of the pond, subscription-only car brand Lynk & Co. opened its first European clubhouse in Amsterdam. Unlike BMW or Audi, Lynk & Co.’s only offers cars on a subscription basis and is going all-in on the strategy.

In Amsterdam, where car ownership is quite low, a subscription service which gives access to a vehicle only when you need it makes sense. Perhaps the industry will have more success there, all we know: it’s a bit murky for now.

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