Many automakers have tried—and some have already abandoned—car subscription services. But Porsche has always operated in more rarified air. Convinced of the strong demand for its performance vehicles, if even for only a day or a few weeks, the German sports-car maker is introducing a new monthly single-vehicle subscription program in four American cities starting September 25, while also expanding its other subscription programs.
To recap, Porsche introduced a pilot subscription program in Atlanta in 2017 where members pay a monthly fee and can swap between models from the mainstream Porsche lineup. So far 325 members have taken advantage of Porsche subscription services, most of them staying in the program for four months and swapping their vehicle choice every two weeks, said Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America.
From the experience, executives learned that there are customers who would prefer to stay with the same vehicle for a few months, but don’t want to commit to a longer period with, say, even a yearlong lease.
Keep the Same Porsche for a Month
To meet this perceived demand, Porsche is expanding its subscription model, including the introduction of a monthly single-vehicle program that will cost a few hundred dollars less than the multi-vehicle plan, but still offers the flexibility of having a Porsche for a short, set, timeframe. Perfect for the movie director who will be in LA for a few months, for example, and wants to use his app to snag some short-term wheels befitting his stature.
Zellmer knows subscription services are controversial. Porsche was among the first to introduce a plan in October 2017; earlier that year General Motors launched Book by Cadillac. But GM put Book by Cadillac on hiatus in late 2018 with plans to retool and revive it this year, a plan that so far has yet to come to fruition. The Mercedes Collection, which ran for two years, ended this summer. Others that are still in operation are mostly confined to a few select cities. Among them are Audi Select, Access by BMW, and Care by Volvo.
Subscription models are controversial, even within Porsche, Zellmer told us in a roundtable interview. But for the German luxury carmaker, so far it is proving successful, offering flexibility to customers who have the means to afford it. About 80 percent of the participants are new to the brand and they are a choice demographic: younger than the average Porsche customer. And more than a third enroll for at least four months, switching vehicles under the program.
About 10 percent leave the program to buy a car but most don’t initially sign up because they are in the market. Zellmer said the subscription services are not considered a sales tool for Porsche, rather a brand tool to enhance the customer experience. After all, it is pricier than the typical lease.
It really is designed as a flexible option for the affluent, which is perhaps why the subscription model works better for Porsche than other brands. A financial key for Porsche is the ability to keep residual values high on vehicles kept in the fleet for up to a year to be used for subscription customers. “If depreciation for six to 12 months doesn’t hit you hard, it will work, which is the case for Porsche,” Zellmer said, noting the program was profitable before the pandemic hit.
The new single-vehicle service will launch in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Diego. Members of the program can choose a single Porsche model for one- or three-month all-inclusive periods whose fee covers everything but fuel. At the end of the time period, they can extend their membership in the same vehicle or choose a different Porsche.
Los Angeles Is Latest Participant
Porsche is also expanding its existing monthly Multi-Vehicle Subscription and Rental programs to include Los Angeles. Besides Atlanta, this program was expanded to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Diego in August 2019, but growth has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic that has lowered participation by about 30 percent.
The new single-vehicle program addresses the preference of some members to stay in the same vehicle for the full time period selected.
Available models include the new Cayenne Coupe. Because the Porsche Taycan electric sedan is in short supply, it will not be added to the subscription program fleet until 2021, said Zellmer. The highest-performance derivatives, such as the GT3, GT3 RS, or 911 Turbo, are not offered.
Those interested must download the Porsche Drive app to apply for membership, a process that requires a background check for approval and carries a $595 activation fee for all but the three-month single-vehicle agreements (it’s waived in these instances). There is one designated dealer in each participating city.
Porsche Drive Is the New Name to Remember
The automaker is also rebranding the programs, which used to be called Porsche Passport, under the name Porsche Drive. Porsche Drive-Multi-Vehicle Subscription allows unlimited vehicle swaps for a $2,100 monthly fee (not including taxes and other charges) or $3,100 for access to higher-performing variants of some models as well as the 911 Carrera. Porsche Drive-Rental is the quickie; it can be as short as a day or cover a weekend or vacation, anything less than a month. Prices range from $245 for a day in a Porsche Macan to $2,415 for a week in a 911 Carrera.
The new Porsche Drive-Single Vehicle Subscription service has a flat monthly fee of $1,500 for a Macan; $1,800 for a Cayman; $1,950 for a Boxster or Cayenne, $2,450 for a Panamera, or $2,600 for a 911 Carrera, as opposed to $3,100 to access that same Carrera through the Multi-Vehicle program. The Single-Vehicle Subscription is expected to be the most popular because it costs less and will appeal to a broader audience that might be somewhat more price-sensitive.
All vehicles are deep cleaned between users and offered with social-distanced delivery and drop-off.
Zellmer said other cities in the U.S. and Canada (Toronto is also a participating market) are on a list to be added in the future but there is no timetable for expansion given today’s virus-related uncertainties, as it’s an expensive program and takes otherwise salable vehicles from dealers. But if you live in the right city, have the scratch, and want to take an extended test drive or live out your Porsche fantasies, we’d say it’s time to hit up a dealer.