Having a fleet of cars to drive used to be something only millionaires could afford to buy, maintain and store. Now, people don’t need to commit to all of the costs of ownership, but can change cars as their needs change by subscription. That is, if they want to drive, and affluent drivers are leading the trend.
This new user model takes inspiration from Netflix or Spotify subscription services, but for cars. It perfectly fits the kind of consumer that Ipsos calls an Affluencer, in this case, an Auto Affluencer. These are consumers whose enthusiasm, content habits, buying patterns, and spending on autos makes them influential to others.
Vehicle subscriptions are the latest innovation shaking up how the automobile has played in American culture. Americans have loved their cars and the freedom they provide, for more than a century. But some people are becoming less interested in driving a car, much less owning one. Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are so widely available that even the most enthusiastic driver is opting at times for using one instead of taking the wheel.
Now, when drivers do want to drive, they can skip traditional ownership or leasing. Instead, they can have access to a choice of vehicles through myriad subscription services. Depending on the service, a driver can choose from one or more automaker’s cars for an all-inclusive monthly package. With some programs, the driver can switch in and out of different vehicles based on their immediate needs and desire for variety. For workdays, you might want a sedan. For weekends, you might want a roadster or truck.
Why subscriptions fit Auto Affluencers
It’s no surprise that Auto Affluencers are interested in these services. They already buy more often and trade out their cars faster than the average person. They pay more attention to what cars and technology are out there and show more interest in innovations. And they are the folks who say they enjoy driving. So, the idea of being able to choose a sports coupe today and an off-road vehicle tomorrow fits them to a “T.”
According to the Ipsos research, the consumers most interested in vehicle subscriptions services are:
Millennials, who are about twice as likely to be interested than the general population (194 Index)
Risk takers and early adopters (Tech early adopters – 203 Index; Risk Takers – 173 Index; First to try new products – 178 Index)
Influencers of all types (People others turn to for advice before a significant purchase – 203 Index; Tech influencers – 197 Index; Fashion influencers – 194 Index; Entertainment influencers – 190 Index)
Style and design-focused (People with an excellent sense of style – 186 Index; Like to stand out – 190 Index; Well dressed – 169 Index; Keep up with fashion/trends – 164 Index)
To drive or not to drive
On the flip side, the innovation that literally takes the steering wheel away from drivers is the advent of autonomous vehicles. While by no means widely available yet, Auto Affluencers are almost four times as likely than average buyers to have already been for a ride in one (388 Index).
Millennials are the group most likely to say they are interested in learning more about self-driving vehicles (146 Index). Because this interest in autonomous technology skews young, it also skews towards Hispanics, people with a high consideration of alternative fuel vehicles (151 Index), and early adopters of technology (138 Index).
These are the consumers who are leading still-skeptical drivers to a different kind of garage and maybe a new American car culture.