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Gauging the Early Success of BMW’s Subscription Plan

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May 15, 2018—In recent weeks, John McLarty’s employer has received the type of publicity most dealerships only dream of.

In early April, BMW of Nashville was chosen as the pilot site to launch the luxury OEM’s “Access by BMW” subscription ownership program, in which, for a monthly fee, customers are given the option of trying out several different vehicles, while also receiving insurance and maintenance as part of the package.  

McLarty, the Tennessee dealership’s general manager, said BMW of Nashville’s phones have been ringing steadily since “April—right when it came out, and it just hasn’t stopped since.

“I think now, more than ever, people want options, and this is just a whole new, different type of option,” he explained. “You’ve got access to different models which fit your driving needs. … It’s just go on the app, set it up, and it’s seamless.”

While McLarty said BMW of Nashville is still in the midst of launching the subscription program, he said plenty of his customers seem intrigued by it (he also explained that his facility was chosen largely due to Nashville’s growing population).

Other dealers are plenty interested in hearing about this new twist on traditional vehicle leasing and financing, too. McLarty said dealership leaders from around the country have inundated him with questions about Access by BMW.

“People do come up and ask about it,” McLarty said of the subscription program. “And, we do feel some tension. We’re going to do everything we can to make it a success. We’re confident it will be.”

BMW of Nashville is still largely taking registrations for the subscription program at this point. But McLarty is encouraged by how many customers have signed up for it, considering Access by BMW was launched without much advertising. While the general manager wasn’t aware of how soon other dealerships would offer Access by BMW to customers, he said he expects the program to be fully launched at his facility “in the next few weeks.”

Several OEMs have examined offering subscription services in recent months, largely in an effort to attract younger customers who are hesitant about vehicle ownership. But, McLarty feels BMW has created a subscription plan that should be truly appealing to consumers, considering that it offers the potential for access to a wide range of the luxury automaker’s vehicles, including coupes, convertibles, and several 5 series and M series models.

McLarty, whose dealership is hiring a couple extra drivers to deliver vehicles to customers as part of the subscription program, said clients seem excited about the choices that Access by BMW grants them.

“It’s really neat,” McLarty said of the monthly subscription plan. “Car swapping, or switching, is done completely within the BMW Access mobile app. Members choose an experience and request when and where they’d like the vehicle to be delivered—it’s just go on the app, set it up, and it’s seamless. … We want to make it easy for them.”

McLarty also noted that, during Access by BMW’s pilot phase, a subscription to the program will be offered in two membership tiers—one costing around $2,000 per month and another costing $3,700. Those membership fees include taxes, vehicle maintenance and roadside assistance. He acknowledged that additional membership tiers, allowing increased access to a broader range of BMW vehicles, will be added as the program expands.

It’s too early to tell just how successful BMW’s subscription ownership plan will be, McLarty said.

But, he added, “once we go live, I can’t wait to see. It’s certainly something that’s getting a lot of attention.”

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