Wheels When You Need Them

Examining a pair of new car subscription services

Maybe there’s a six-month job waiting in Naples or Fort Myers, or perhaps the idea of buying or leasing a new car or truck doesn’t seem right. A third option is now available and accelerating at a steady pace in Southwest Florida. SIXT, the German-originated former rental-only car company, and T4L Inc. have joined other regional and national companies offering customizable car subscriptions.

With its U.S. base in Fort Lauderdale, SIXT has steadily expanded its domestic rental and new car-buying presence, including a location at Southwest Florida International Airport. It announced its subscription service in September. Branded “Transportation 4 Life,” T4L, headquartered in Naples, debuted its electric vehicle subscription service in late September.

“As auto customers continue to explore the growing mobility market, service-related offerings are becoming more in demand,” says Allen Witters, CEO of T4L. “Our members will enjoy easier vehicle access, a better overall dollar value, a hassle-free transportation experience and best-in-class customer service.”

“We see that mobility needs have changed, particularly during this pandemic,” says Sebastian Birkel, company president of the venture technically called SIXT+. “You have some people who say, ‘I would always prefer individual mobility over mass transit, but I may not want to go into a financial obligation for the next few years.’

“There are other people who say ‘I just need a car right now,’ or ‘I don’t want to wait until it’s delivered’ or whatever,” says Birkel. “So, we came up with the subscription idea.”

Every subscription under the T4L membership includes insurance, taxes and registration, vehicle swap, maintenance covering tires, brakes, batteries, wiper blades, vehicle refresh and software updates, supercharging, roadside service support and concierge priority service.

“We believe this is priceless to someone who is passionate about electric vehicles,” says Witters. “The trend is the result of consumers uncertain about a new purchase in uncertain times.”

According to Birkel, consumers have become more accustomed to subscription services, from health club memberships to movies to music.

“It just hasn’t lifted off in the car industry, yet,” he says. “I believe with cars it’s the same thing. I don’t know if people are aware, those who own a car, how often the car is parked and not being used. If you factor in all the total costs of ownership of a vehicle, you come to the conclusion that a subscription is actually very, very cheap.”

SIXT’s debut into the car subscription marketplace arrives as the company, present in more than 110 countries, also announced a partnership with mobile transport provider Lyft.

In selected cities, SIXT subscribers can reserve a vehicle via the Lyft app, with planned expansion throughout the country pending. SIXT also recently acquired 10 airport locations vacated by the now-defunct rental car agency Advantage.

The subscription model has also been introduced in other regions of the country, some catering to higher-end vehicles, others to the expanding EV industry.

Subscription car service companies are hoping for increased market shares, with consumers considering depreciation, dealer fees, interest rates, maintenance and other monetary and convenience factors.

Not only are auto subscriptions all-inclusive, consumers using vehicles only when they need them is environmentally savvy.

“It all adds up at the end of the day,” says Birkel. “I believe if you do such a subscription model and you just turn the car back when you don’t need it, you’ll be better off. And you will always have a fresh car.”

 

CONVENIENCE, FLEXIBILITY, VALUE

T4L membership prices range from $600 to $2,270 per month for cars in the company’s electric vehicle-only fleet. The fee is inclusive: insurance, taxes and registration to vehicle swap. Full maintenance—tires, brakes, batteries, wiper blades, vehicle refresh and software updates, charging, roadside service support—is also provided, as are priority concierge services.

Prospective T4L members can choose options and request a vehicle. Once a vehicle has been configured and requested, a T4L concierge contacts every enrollee and provides membership, subscription, vehicle selection, deposit and delivery expectations. Vehicle delivery is expected within 90 days and all cars arrive fully charged with T4L’s new membership kit and a membership app. For more information, visit T4L.me.

The Sixt+ service monthly fee ranges from $459 to $979 per month. Routine maintenance and various other service costs are included in plans with varied mileage allowance and protection packages. Customers can change to a new car or model category for $49 per swap, though changing categories will trigger a new price tier. Subscription cars are provided through SIXT’s downtown locations that don’t carry exorbitant airport facility fees and taxes. For more information, visit sixt.com/plus.

Photo courtesy SIXT

 

KIA FLEX OFFERS MORE OPTIONS

LMP Motors Inc. will introduce a subscription-based option to customers as the proprietor of the former Fuccillo Kia in Cape Coral and Port Charlotte.

While new Kia models will still be sold, Sam Tawfik, the dealerships’ new owner, will use the facilities as the performance and distribution headquarters for sales and subscription business. The latter, Tawfik believes, will align the soon-to-be newly rebranded business with the increasing trend of automotive subscription plans.

Kia introduced its subscription service, Kia Flex, in the carmaker’s premium offerings in 2019, and it’s since expanded to other models. Among other options, subscribers can exchange car types once per month.

With its expanded customer choices, Tawfik hopes this new automotive hub in Southwest Florida will follow the predictions of industry analysts. It’s believed subscription-based services could approach 10% of the national market in five years.

Courtesy Kia