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Lincoln's used-car subscription program not off to the best start

Roadshow logo Roadshow 9/24/2018 Andrew Krok
a car parked on the side of a road© Lincoln

Car subscription programs are slowly gaining ground as consumers grow warmer to the idea of finding wheels in the same way one might snag up a Netflix account. But not every subscription program is equal, and Lincoln might send its own program back to the drawing board in the near future. Lincoln is reconsidering aspects of its subscription pilot, Automotive News reports, citing comments from Robert Parker, Lincoln's director of sales and marketing, at a press event. "I've been surprised how few people are genuinely interested in that type of ownership," Parker told Automotive News. 

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Whereas many automaker-based subscription programs allow subscribers to pay one monthly fee for access to a wide variety of insured vehicles, Lincoln's setup was a bit different. Canvas' subscription program eschewed new cars for off-lease vehicles that are a couple model years old. Lincoln may want to reconsider adding new vehicles to its program. Its program might have better traction if users had access to Lincoln's latest and greatest, like the new Navigator.

It's more of an "à la carte" program, with its pricing heavily dependent on the length of time a user signs up. But the focus on used cars instead of new cars allowed Canvas to start at a much lower price than many competing programs. For comparison, Access by BMW starts at $1,099 per month, and Book by Cadillac starts around $1,500 per month. Parker told Automotive News that most subscribers to the California-based Canvas were only looking for short-term loans -- while searching for a new car to buy, for example.

Parker said that the company will change how Canvas works, but nobody's quite sure what that could entail. One suggestion Parker offered up to Automotive News is to increase dealer involvement, since dealers could help educate buyers and, hopefully, get them to stay in the program longer.

A study from Autolist earlier this year found that most buyers still had no idea about subscription programs, so improving awareness could very well benefit the next iteration of Lincoln's pilot.

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