As the first automotive group to launch auto subscription in our market, Wyler FastLane, I have been closely following the press and feedback on this exciting new area.
I would share that I have seen nothing in my career that has created more excitement amongst consumers than auto subscription. The traditional model of car ownership has remained the same for decades. One vehicle financed or leased for a long term, offering little to no flexibility, and aside from the new car excitement that rapidly fades after purchase, our customers move forward with cleaning and maintaining their vehicle until they return to the purchasing cycle.
The traditional retail model has been in a state of disruption for the last few years, and automotive is currently at the top of that list. Our modern-day customers are looking for higher levels of convenience, personalization, and flexibility when they make their purchase decisions. If this was not true, why do the most successful companies we see today share one common trait? Companies like Disney, Zappos, Amazon, and Apple all excel at being consumer-facing. What can we learn as an industry from this?
Why can’t we provide a flexible mobility solution that best meets many of our modern customers’ needs? We have seen groundbreaking outside solutions disrupt the transportation arena with ride-sharing programs that meet these types of needs. Auto subscription is a revolutionary model that provides a flexible mobility solution for one monthly payment which includes access to an entire garage of vehicles, and also includes insurance, maintenance, and taxes with most programs.
How have consumers responded to auto subscription? Simply put, drivers can now have the perfect car for any occasion, and even better, they don’t have to manage the typical worries of car ownership, to include maintaining the vehicle, having the right vehicle for each event, and what to do if they break down. Simply put, the number one piece of input we have received with Wyler FastLane is “it makes driving FUN again.”
It has been disappointing to see that most of the resistance to auto subscription is not from consumers, but from the auto industry itself. Many dealers see it as a threat, while others consider it as a fad. Meanwhile, another new startup, Fair (with up to one billion in debt and equity funding raised by Scott Painter) is entering our market to provide flexible mobility solutions. If our industry is serious about addressing disruption to the traditional auto retail model, shouldn’t we be more open-minded to models like auto subscription?
I would agree that there should be concern from dealers about OEMs looking to work directly with our customers. Many of these OEMs have already indicated that they are looking to test and prove the business model first, and if it works to then partner with their franchised dealers. For those that have not communicated this, we are closely watching their intentions.
It is important to emphasize that for the very few dealers testing auto subscription, each of us is trying to test and prove whether this is a sustainable business model. The Jeff Wyler Automotive Family is one of the nation’s top 50 dealership groups and has a progressive culture where we are willing to test these types of ideas. Certainly the amount of people looking to pursue this type of car ownership model is small at this time, however, the message that we can send as an industry by offering more consumer-facing solutions is invaluable.
My challenge, my warning, is we must move forward with an open-minded, progressive mindset as we test not only auto subscription but other ownership models that not only create a better experience for customers but also ensure we’re not left behind as disruptors look to enter and break apart what we have done successfully for over 100 years.
Author: Kevin Frye
Kevin Frye is the eCommerce Director of the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family, one of the top 50 dealership groups in the United States. Named as one of the top 5 influencers changing the automotive industry today by Automotive News, he has been a leader in the industry with the use of Google Analytics, data privacy, video SEO, social media, mobile, website design, and managing your online reputation. Before his work with Jeff Wyler, Kevin was an independent business owner who pioneered selling cars online for both dealerships and individual consumers, selling over 500 cars on eBay in one year alone. Kevin was a Naval Aviator for 8 years, with extensive flight hours in Desert Shield and Operation Southern Watch, as well as over 200 combat hours in Desert Storm. He has used the leadership skills he learned in the Navy to keep the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family at the front edge of automotive eCommerce.