"There is no better way to get a taste for Porsche than by driving one," Porsche Cars North America CEO Klaus Zellmer told Automotive News. "In the Passport pilot, we have seen that the vast majority of subscribers are new to the brand."
Since the cost of a new car can be high, it makes sense to make the brand more accessible, even in short spurts such as rentals, said Akshay Anand, executive analyst with Kelley Blue Book.
"Porsche is doing this simply to create more fans of the brand — down the line, or even in the near term," Anand said. "If the rental experiences prove positive, it makes it that much more likely that a consumer might go out and buy a Porsche."
Automakers are experimenting with subscription and other on-demand programs as consumers demand more flexibility with less commitment. Rapid technological advancement, changing consumer preferences and the emergence of affordable and abundant ride-hailing services are driving the quest for alternatives to traditional car ownership.
Automakers are responding by testing technology-enabled business models. For the Drive and Passport programs, Porsche partnered with Atlanta-based Clutch Technologies, which uses predictive analytics to help plan a fleet's inventory and mix. Clutch's algorithms recommend vehicles to members based on their use pattern.
The Porsche Drive pilot, launched in Atlanta, offers hourly, daily and weekly rentals for current model cars. A week's worth of fun in a Porsche 911 will set a customer back $2,909, before taxes and fees. Porsche will deliver a vehicle to the customer within two hours of a reservation.
Porsche Host, a venture between Porsche Digital and Turo, will launch in Los Angeles and San Francisco on Oct. 8.
Turo is similar to an automotive Airbnb, and has more than 4,700 Porsches available for rent in its marketplace. Turo curated an initial group of about 20 Porsche owners for the pilot based on their location and customer service scores.
"It's an opportunity to take our best hosts and make them Porsche evangelists for our guests," Turo spokesman Steve Webb said.
Subscriptions and rentals are another way for automakers to continue to increase consumer touchpoints, Anand said.
"These programs are a good way to get consumer feedback and can serve as a nice point of entry for a consumer who may be unfamiliar with a brand," he said. "Though automakers likely hope these touchpoints will convert to sales later down the road, the reality is the world is changing, and automakers have to adapt."
The on-demand pilots are lead generators for the dealer network.
"They lead new Porsche fans to our dealer partners, which are the motherships of the Porsche business," Zellmer said. "There is no better place than a dealership to cultivate that new customer relationship."