Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Notations From the Grid (Weekly Edition): On a Possible Future ((Courtesy @Fortune))

Data Sheet
We subscribe to meals, clothes, and TV shows. What about cars?

What’s your most expensive monthly bill, outside of rent or a mortgage?

Residents of the 25 largest U.S. metros paid an average of $376 a month for car loans—the highest recurring expense, CNBC reported last year. Insurance was the second most expensive at $238 per month. Then, of course, you have to add in the costs of occasional maintenance or repair. 

What if all those expenses were taken care of for a monthly subscription of $699? And instead of using one car that you own or lease, you can drive an interchangeable roster of vehicles, with unlimited swap-outs on a daily basis.

That’s the latest pitch from Nissan, which joins a host of car companies experimenting with a Netflix-style subscription service. In addition to insurance and maintenance, the monthly price includes cleaning and roadside assistance. A dealership concierge member would deliver your cars to you within the service area, which for now is limited to Houston, Texas.

“This is a great opportunity for people to drive what they want when they need it for one, predictable payment,” Central Houston Nissan general manager Chad Milow said in a statement.

But while the payment model may be convenient for customers, car dealers are predictably peeved with the strategy, claiming direct subscription services unfairly cut them out of potential sales.

Industry infighting aside, questions still arise over consumers’ willingness to pay such a steep fee each month. Unlike other subscription services, subscribing to cars is not cheap—even with the added perks of insurance and repairs. And while research shows that millennials, the target demographic, actually drive more than commonly thought, they still favor urban centers where ride-hailing and bike lanes are prevalent.

Personally, I have no intention of swapping out my New York City MetroCard for a car subscription any time soon. The subway might be unreliable and occasionally unpleasant, but a $127 monthly pass is still a hell of a lot cheaper than 700 bucks.

Aric Jenkins

Twitter: @aricwithan_a

Email: aric.jenkins@fortune.com

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.

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