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The Verge: BMW Becomes the Latest Automaker to Shut Down Its Subscription Service

Source: Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge

Access by BMW was a $2,000-a-month service that launched in 2018

BMW is suspending its two-year-old car subscription service, The Verge has learned.

Access by BMW was launched in 2018 in Nashville as a pilot project to test out whether customers would want to have access to a fleet of fancy cars but not necessarily own one. But recent requests to sign up have been met with a disclaimer that the service is in the process of shutting down. A Nashville resident who was interested in applying for the subscription service was told that it was going to be defunct by the end of January.

“Unfortunately the Access by BMW subscription program is ending on January 31st and we are no longer taking new members,” a sales representative said in an email.

A BMW spokesperson confirmed to The Verge that BMW was winding down its pilot, though the company appears to be leaving the door open for future experiments. “The Access by BMW vehicle subscription program was launched in Nashville, TN in April of 2018 and was always intended to be a pilot program,” the spokesperson said. “As such, the pilot will conclude at the end of this month. We are in the process of developing the next iteration of Access by BMW and will share more information with you as it becomes available.”

The spokesperson declined to share sales numbers but acknowledged that “the program had reached its capacity limits.”

Despite the imminent shutdown, the Access by BMW website is still up and running, with a link on the automaker’s North American site redirecting to it. “A new way of driving BMW is coming,” the homepage promises.

Access by BMW consisted of two tiers. For $2,000 a month, members could choose between models like the X5 SUV, 4 Series, and 5 Series sedans, including all plug-in hybrid versions. For the higher-tier $3,700-a-month fee, they could get M4, M5, or M6 convertibles as well as X5M and X6M SUVs. (BMW’s highest-end 7 Series was not available through the service). The fee included insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance.

If that seems a bit pricey, you’re not wrong. The top-tier $3,700-a-month plan is almost three times the cost of leasing an M5 sedan in the Nashville area (though a lease requires a down payment of $5,724 and doesn’t include insurance and maintenance).

Subscriptions have been a mixed bag for the auto industry. Ford walked away from its service last fall following low demand. Cadillac shut down its service Book in 2018, only to resurrect it several months later with fewer options. Last summer, Mercedes-Benz pulled the plug [on] its Collection subscription service, citing mediocre sales.

Other automakers have had some success. Porsche, Audi, Volvo, Nissan, and Jaguar are still offering some variation of a subscription service. Even the big car rental companies, Hertz and Enterprise, are getting in on the action. Most of these subscriptions are only available in specific cities and are still in the pilot phase.

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