Getting it right in Europe’s fast-growing car subscription market

Munich, May 2022


Munich, May 2022

ive “moments of truth” are essential to deliver the seamless experience customers demand

Across Europe, auto manufacturers, start-ups, established rental agencies and dealers are rolling out car subscription offers to keep pace with rapidly growing customer demand. Berylls estimates that total annual new subscription contracts will soar from between 210,000 and 230,000 in 2022 to as many as 4 million by 2030. Many of these potential new subscribers currently do not own a car. In January 2022, Berylls’ Vehicle-as-a-Service (VaaS) survey of 2,040 German consumers found that 13 percent of today’s non-car users would be interested in VaaS, adding 1.3 million people to the market.

On average, current subscription customers are between seven and eight years younger than car buyers, and their wish to own a car is being replaced by a desire for convenience and flexibility. Increasingly, these consumers are demanding a highly digital product offering and the kind of customer experience they have come to expect from the likes of Amazon, Zalando and Netflix.

Car subscription ticks all the critical boxes from their point of view. Vehicles are often available straightaway from an existing fleet, within minutes of ordering online. This is a welcome contrast to purchased cars, which can take as long as a year to be delivered because of chip shortages and other supply-chain issues. Typically, it’s a short-term commitment, where instead of being locked into a multi-year credit or leasing contract, customers can opt for a minimum period of as little as one month.



Antonella Giese

Product Manager

Standing out among subscription offers

Not surprisingly, Europe’s subscription market is becoming increasingly crowded, with carmakers such as Volvo and VW competing with rental agencies and a growing range of innovative start-ups.

What these different players and subscription models have in common is a shared challenge. To win in this market, you have to differentiate by delivering a stellar, fully-digitalized customer experience as well as having the right vehicle offering and monthly rate.

We have identified five customer “moments of truth” which together deliver the kind of experience that people expect when they take out a subscription. The common theme connecting these moments is digitalization, in a market where customers assume they can select and pay for a vehicle entirely online with no need to phone a dealer or see the car.

Simply providing a standard online service won’t be enough to differentiate your offer from the competition. The winners in this race will be those companies which build the right digitalized features into their subscription platform – and build them well – to deliver a truly bespoke customer experience.

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Five-star service

Subscribers need to be “wowed” by the superb, transparent digital experience they enjoy from the instant that they sign up. It is not just the absence of hidden costs for wear and tear and other small-print items that they should notice. More positively, all the most successful subscription offers make the customer feel pampered with a premium service, whether they are providing a white-glove delivery or an immediate answer to a technical query via the helpdesk email. Satisfy the subscriber by paying attention to the detail of retail and they won’t mind paying a bit extra, so long as the fees are clear and part of the upfront bundle.

Hassle free

The last thing subscription customers want is responsibility for the familiar headaches of car ownership, from tax and insurance to tires, maintenance and repairs. These items are all included in the typical “hassle free” package, while in future even electric charging could be billed as part of the subscription deal, saving customers the trouble of paying as they drive.
They also don’t want to spend time making very detailed choices about the kind of car they want. For example, it’s common for subscribers only to be given the main choices which are fun to select, such as brand and color. Subscribers also expect instant or at least extremely rapid delivery, including to the doorstep, in contrast to the current long waiting times for purchased cars, especially electric vehicles.

Match my lifestyle

Subscription services should be flexible enough to meet each customer’s personal needs and preferences. These might include anything from requiring a car just for the winter months, because the driver uses a bike in summer, to wanting to test a new model before committing to a purchase. For example, a recent survey for the UK’s What Car? magazine found that 45 percent of respondents thought they would be more likely to buy an electric vehicle if they could try it first on a subscription deal. Volkswagen is one company responding to this demand by launching its subscription offer with the new ID.3 and ID.4 electric vehicles.

Personalized experience

Subscribers may only be signing up for a few months, but providers still need to make the customer experience as personalized as possible. To that end, customers should be allowed to pre-load configurations so their selected car “knows” who they are as soon as they turn on the engine. Seats are adjusted, the radio is set to favorite channels, and the home address is installed in the sat nav. Providers should also add a human touch via a contact person the customer can email or call with key questions, such as scheduling a repair or changing tires. Customers also appreciate making it simple for them to install their own Spotify account by registering via a QR code rather than insisting on entering a complicated password.

Seamless checkout

Buying a car through a dealership is often frustratingly slow and complex, and even with online purchases, buyers can face an array of detailed, confusing options. Providers of car subscription services should strive to make their offering feel as easy as buying a pair of shoes online. That means a fully digital, streamlined process with no unnecessary form-filling, automated driver’s license verification, automated credit check/scoring, and only the need for a digital signature, enabling the customer to complete the subscription online, ideally in less than five minutes.

Conclusion: The road ahead for subscriptions – champions of the digital customer experience will be the winners

A clear strategic focus is essential for future champions in a subscription market that is becoming increasingly crowded. At present, too many entrants are in a gold-rush mood, pursuing an undifferentiated me-too approach for fear of missing out. Yet simply copying a relatively successful competitor’s subscription model won’t be enough to emerge as one of the winners. Our five moments of truth are critical for delivering the level of service that will give your subscription offer the edge, in a market where tomorrow’s champions will be fully digitalized and focused on delivering a superb customer experience.