Colorado Consumers Can Try Electric Vehicle Subscriptions

The Colorado Sun

You are a modern person. So you know very well that the modern world is trying to subscribe everything.

You’ve considered, accepted, or declined subscriptions to monthly mystery boxes of new clothes, detergent refills, earthy boxes of organic vegetables, or pandemic-escapism children’s toys.

What about an electric vehicle subscription?

Autonomy and other startups are offering monthly “subscriptions” to new Teslas to allow the EV curious to avoid waiting lists for new cars and try out their dream vehicle, without the years-long obligations of a lease.

Autonomy is expanding its service across California and plans to be in Colorado by the end of the year, according to a company official.

“It’s a guilt-free and no-obligation way to buy an electric car in the fastest, easiest and cheapest way,” said Autonomy’s lead analyst, Jesse Toprak. Autonomy currently trades exclusively in high-end Teslas, but is in talks with other EV brand manufacturers with buzz.

“Cheapest” does not mean “cheap”. Maybe if you have to ask the price, the deal was never meant for you, but these aren’t $250 a month commuter prices. Autonomy offers consumers payment choices in a “dial” system: you can make a $990 deposit and then pay a $990 monthly subscription for the Tesla 3, or move the deposit button to lower the monthly price. A $4,900 deposit results in a $490 monthly subscription fee.

Autonomy retains ownership of the car, meaning they handle all registrations. You must bring your own car insurance. The subscription must be for a minimum of three months, but after that the driver can cancel at any time with 30 days’ notice. There is no debt that hurts a credit rating, for those who may also be looking for a home loan. And payments can be made by credit card to earn points, a bonus not allowed in leases or loan payments.

It’s not a shared car, where people buy hours of service from a pool of EVs or petrol cars. You may be sharing a large portion of your income with Autonomy, but you are not sharing your Tesla with anyone else.

“We have customers who sign up and they drive out the next afternoon,” Toprak said. “You don’t just do that with the Tesla 3, with the waiting times.” Some Tesla buyers use Autonomy’s subscription to try out the vehicle while on the waiting list for a retail Tesla purchase.

Autonomy can make the subscription price relatively affordable for some, Toprak said, as it preserves the value of the car itself. Used Tesla 3s are rising in price, as is much of the used car market, and the company can benefit from smartly managing its fleet turnover.

“I would say the people we see can be described as ‘curious,'” Toprak said. “They know about EVs, they really want to make sure a vehicle like this fits their lifestyle, given their commute and access to charging, without pulling the trigger on a bigger purchase.”

The subscription EV model may not be for everyone, but it’s not crazy, said Skyler McKinley, spokesperson for the AAA Colorado auto membership service club. As with all subscriptions, loans, leases, guarantees or other obligations, dig in the fine print, McKinley insisted.

“Subscription models and ‘cars as a service’ can be an elegant solution to the fact that most Denverites want regular access to a car so they can go to the high country and engage in other outdoor recreation activities, while at the same time cities struggle with discouraging of single occupancy vehicles,” said McKinley.

Drivers are trying alternatives to the American stereotype that every adult – for the long term – owns a car parked in their own garage. McKinley pointed out Volvo’s direct-from-manufacturer subscription model, which has a minimum of five months but also takes care of insurance, as another recent example.

A Colorado start for Autonomy will be coming soon as the state is one of the national leaders in rapid adoption of EVs, Toprak said. Colorado ranked fifth in the percentage of new car sales going to low-emission EVs and plug-in hybrids in the first quarter of 2022, with 8.6% of total sales. California, with the earliest model of mandatory minimums for manufacturers adding EVs to their sales mix, led the way with 17.8% of total sales.

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