In January, a California-based startup called Autonomy began “stocking up on electric cars from virtually every company that makes them,” according to Bloomberg (including Tesla, Ford and Polestar). Their plan? Collect $5,900 for a “start-up fee,” then charge $490 to $690 per month for an EV subscription with up to 1,000 miles (but no maintenance or registration fees):
The subscription model has a certain logic for consumers. In part due to the rapid development of technology, electric vehicles have traditionally lost value much faster than gas-powered vehicles. On the depreciation scale, consumers tend to put them in the same pile as cell phones… But EV ownership is also looking better every day. The depreciation curve is flattening thanks to cars with longer ranges, and car companies are increasingly talking about things like battery life. A three-year-old Chevrolet Bolt, for example, will recoup 84% of its value today, matching the resale average of all three-year-old vehicles in North America, according to CarEdge.com, a consumer-focused marketplace. research platform.
Maybe that’s why auto executives insist on rounding up those nice, nice software revenues in smaller chunks. BMW is selling a $18-a-month subscription to heated seats in the UK, with much fanfare, and General Motors has turned its OnStar voice navigation system into a $1,500 “must-have” subscription for every new Buick, GMC and Cadillac Escalade. Even without a la carte add-ons, one of the main forces supporting used electric car prices is, ironically, their ability to be remotely upgraded – the same technology carmakers use for subscription drivers.
A modern car is nothing more than a dense suite of software, which means subscriptions on wheels aren’t exactly foolproof. But a car is also a piece of equipment, and consumers aren’t used to renting a refrigerator, let alone paying a monthly fee for using an ice maker. Fortunately for Autonomy, the simplest pitch can be the best. If it can fulfill individual orders for electric cars by jumping to the front of the queue, the startup could find a lot of subscribers—simply because it will have the cars available.