Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will jump into the burgeoning subscription market in 2019 under its Jeep Wave membership program.
Jeep brand head Mike Manley told investors at an event in Balocco, Italy, that the move would give Jeep fans wider access to the brand's vehicle portfolio. For a monthly fee, members will have access to a variety of FCA vehicles. The program will be offered in tiers described as "good, better, best," with varied options for insurance coverage, vehicle selection and concierge services.
In addition, a pilot starting in the Northeast next year will allow owners of Jeep Wranglers and Hawk versions of the brand's other crossovers and SUVs to borrow vehicles from the company. Those owners will earn what are called "coins" that they can put toward checking out the other vehicles, and they can buy more coins as needed for ongoing access.
Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealer Paul Walser called the subscription effort interesting — as long as dealers are properly compensated for sales of such services.
"If this is a market that people really want, and if the manufacturer takes care of the dealer, then I'm all in favor of it," said Walser, co-owner of Walser Automotive Group, which has dealerships in Minnesota and Kansas.
"If they try to cut us out of the equation, I'd have a very different attitude."
IHS Markit senior analyst Stephanie Brinley called the subscription announcement surprising but noted that it's an area that most automakers are starting to explore.
"It's a wait-and-see," Brinley said. "Jeep is an aspirational brand, so it's the best place within FCA to explore subscription models. Maserati and Alfa Romeo don't have robust-enough product lineups to explore that."
Brinley added that the automaker's notion of allowing Jeep subscribers to choose other FCA vehicles "may help them overcome some of the natural difficulties with [subscription models]. But I don't know how often consumers are going to float among, say, Dodge and Maserati or Alfa Romeo."
Larry P. Vellequette and Jackie Charniga contributed to this report.