Cadillac launches a subscription service for luxury car-sharing

Cadillac seems to be taking a cue from the world of subscription delivery startups.

The GM-owned luxury brand is launching a new service that will let members drive and swap out pricey cars whenever they’d like for a flat monthly fee of $1,500.

Subscribers simply select what model car they want from a menu within an app, then wait as a white-gloved concierge delivers it to a location of their choosing (though customers are allowed only 18 swaps per year).

Cadillac is billing the offering, called BOOK, as the first service of its kind.

The idea is that the service will free its members from the hassles of actually owning a car — things like insurance, maintenance and registration — while also allowing them to match their vehicle to a specific occasion — say, an Escalade for a road trip or a CTS for a date.

It’s sort of an upscale version of existing car-sharing services like GM’s Maven or ZipCar.

The announcement comes as big car manufacturers are increasingly contemplating a future where personal car ownership is no longer the default. 

While no one quite agrees on the business model to follow, most leaders in the tech and auto industries recognize that the rise of driverless technology, mass urban migration and ride-hailing services will prompt a drastic change in the way people think about transportation.

Visions of this post-ownership future vary by prognosticator. Elon Musk believes each car owner will essentially act as their own ride-sharing service, dispatching their autonomous vehicles to collect fares when they’re not in use. 

Lyft president John Zimmer sees a future where the company’s customers pay for a monthly Netflix-like subscription service — not unlike Cadillac’s model. Ford is talking to city governments about possible replacements for public transportation. And Volkswagen has launched an in-house startup to explore ideas like on-demand shuttles.

In an interview with Mashable last May, Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen envisioned a subscription service with an ownership system borrowed from the private jet market. Instead of buying expensive planes outright, jet setters often pay for an equity stake in an aircraft proportional to how much time they plan to use it, while the brand handles logistics like fueling and maintenance.

De Nysschen speculated that a similar model might work for pricing access to the luxury brand’s fleet of one-day autonomous cars.

BOOK seems to be the first step towards realizing that vision.