Is this indicative of the market, or just an indictment of Lincoln?
Subscription services like Netflix and Hulu are changing the way people watch television, and automakers have been taking notice. We've seen various automakers launch their own subscription service, each with their own unique price and vehicle structure. Some services, like Care By Volvo, allows you to subscribe to one model for a monthly cost. Others, like Mercedes Collection, allow you to switch between a few vehicles.
Lincoln's subscription service, powered by Ford's Canvas system, works a bit differently. Instead of offering new vehicles, Canvas allows customers to subscribe to pre-owned vehicles. The service is only available in California as a pilot program, but Automotive News reports that demand has been lower than expected.
Lincoln says its pilot program, which began this year, has drawn little interest, with many users canceling after just one or two months. "I've been surprised how few people are genuinely interested in that type of ownership," said Robert Parker, Lincoln's director of marketing, sales, and service. "If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said this is the next big thing. A lot of people are struggling to make the math work."
Even with low demand, Lincoln will not cancel the service but will have to figure out how to alter it to attract more users. The service began by offering 2015 models, then added 2017 models ranging from about $500 to $950 per month. Subscribers can currently choose between the MKZ, MKC, MKX, and Continental.
Most of the people who currently use Lincoln's service are short-term customers who are shopping for a new vehicle after an accident or turning in a lease. There are several glaring issues with the service, including the price, which is far too high. Subscription services certainly aren't cheap and have mainly been seen as viable only for very wealthy customers. Porsche Passport, for example, costs $3,000 per month but may be worth it for someone who wants to switch cars frequently and wants to drive a variety of high-dollar cars. Lincoln simply doesn't have the same brand cache to be charging such a high dollar amount.
Lincoln also lacks a distinct product lineup that people should be willing to subscribe to. Porsche can offer customers a Cayenne, a practical SUV, as well as a 718 Boxster, a fun sports car. Lincoln lacks this type of diversity that makes subscription services so unique. Lincoln says it has experimented with the product mix but doesn't want to damage vehicle residuals by having too many cars leave the subscription service and head to auction. Subscription services still seem like an interesting path for the auto industry but Lincoln's first attempt leaves a lot to be desired.