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All-Inclusive Luxury Vehicle Subscriptions

An Interview with Porsche Canada's Lena Helmts

— May 5, 2020 — Business
Porsche Drive was recently introduced to the Canadian market for the first time, with consumers in Toronto now able to access a variety of rental and subscription services that allow them to experience different vehicles without having to worry about maintenance or insurance. To find out more about the different programs that are available, how they function, and what draws consumers to them, we spoke with Lena Helmts, Manager of Retail Channels at Porsche Canada.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role with Porsche?

I'm the Manager of Retail Channels at Porsche Canada. I've been with Porsche Canada for about six years now, and currently oversee the development of its retail network. This includes managing retail network planning and expansion, bringing a new corporate identity to Canada, and guiding our retailers on their electric vehicle charging infrastructure. My role also includes evolving the customer experience, as well as piloting new retail formats in both the physical and the digital spaces, where we explore different ownership and subscription models. Part of this is the recently launched subscription and daily rental program, Porsche Drive.

How does Porsche Drive work? What packages are available to consumers?

Porsche Drive offers two services: rental and subscription. Rental is a daily and weekly rental service that provides a Porsche vehicle with concierge delivery and pick-up within the service area booked via the Porsche Drive mobile app. Through Porsche Drive, users can access our fleet of rentals for a period of time ranging from 4 hours to a week.

Subscription is a monthly service that includes unlimited flips, insurance and maintenance. Members have access to a fleet of Porsche vehicles and can switch between models as often as they like. A kilometer range of 2,500 per month is included with the service. Similarly to the rental service, users can schedule a delivery within the service area at a convenient time and place with the mobile app. There are currently two membership tiers, which give our users access to different models.

What resources are required for Porsche to successfully launch the program in a city?

A dealer partner on the operational end, which includes fleet hosting, detailing and maintenance, as well as the facilitation of vehicle flips. It also requires a fleet of Porsche vehicles, and the ability to continuously manage the fleet to ensure the right models are available to our members. We also have an insurance and leasing partner that enables us to provide the full turnkey experience of access to a fleet of vehicles, with insurance and maintenance included. Another major component is the technology. Clutch provides the mobile app and platform that enables the service. They also provide the digital concierge support to coordinate memberships, flips, and to answer any questions members may have.

What prompted Porsche to bring the program to Toronto? Will the brand continue to launch it in other cities?

At Porsche we always strive for a customer-centric approach. We consider that to be a part of our DNA, and as a result we constantly innovate and reshape our products and offerings to improve and refine them to meet changing customer demands.

The way people prefer to consume products and services is changing. There is a lot of research on how this subscription economy is growing at a rapid pace, as well as predictions on how big it will be in 2025-2030. We see the market activity in the US and Canada in the mobility space— we are not only competing with other car manufacturers, but with tech companies that are entering the market with attractive flexible offerings. At Porsche, we create experiences and evolve into a provider of sporty mobility. That means new ownership models and mobility solutions are going to be at the centre of our brand in Canada. We want to create the best, personalized customer experience, which also means catering to different customer needs.

The program is especially appealing to customers who seek flexibility and only need access to a Porsche for a limited amount of time, as well as those who want to have a hassle-free mobility experience that doesn’t require any extra coordination of insurance or vehicle repair and maintenance. At the same time, it also appeals to consumers who have varying needs and want access to a variety of different vehicles—they might want a SUV for a weekend trip but prefer to drive a sports car throughout the week. With Porsche’s subscription service, it eliminates the need for them to have multiple cars.

We’re still in the pilot phase in Toronto and we’re still learning about how the program best operates in Canada. That said, we’re certainly invested in this mobility service and plan to roll it out to other Canadian cities where we see a demand for it.

After new users pay the joining fee, are they free to opt in and out of the program throughout the year without seeing any additional charges?

Yes, we have added the flexibility to pause your membership in Canada. As the program has limited spots, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to return at the desired time should the program be full, but you do not have to pay an activation fee again.

Has Porsche seen a difference in demographics when it comes to Porsche buyers and those that opt for the Drive program? Why do you think this is?

We have seen a slightly younger demographic in our sign-ups for Drive (rental and subscription), and our US pilot in Atlanta showed similar results. There is a great range from 27 years old to 76 years old in our database, as well as a diversity in ethnic backgrounds—representative of Toronto’s population. Our active member demo (people who got into the cars for subscription) is 38 years old. It is great to see that these subscription services are attracting a younger demographic to Porsche Canada.

Additionally, we see a great share of customers who have never owned a Porsche before, which shows that the subscription model is attracting a different target audience. The program is intended to be attractive to a range of audiences, to broaden the customer base of Porsche products, and bring the Porsche experience, which is the core of our brand, to more people in Canada. It makes driving a Porsche more accessible without having to purchase or lease a vehicle; you can enjoy a Porsche for a day or a month, and just pay your part of the usage of the vehicle.

How popular has Porsche Drive been in the cities where it’s already established? What do consumers like most about the program?

In Atlanta, where it has been established the longest, we continue to see a solid membership base. We have identified a few different reasons why customers use and like the program. Many have an appreciation for all the benefits offered by the program, including the convenience, choice diversity, and the coverage we provide for insurance and maintenance. There are also the customers that like to have access to a sports car for a special occasion, or just throughout summer so that they can enjoy the driving pleasure it provides. Then there are the customers who use the program to experience different models before they make a purchase decision. We’ve seen many of them use the program as an extended test drive experience, where they’re able to get a better understanding of which model works best for their lifestyle.

Image Credit: Porsche