Nissan is stepping into the vehicle subscription game — the latest mass-market automaker to dabble in this unproven business model.
The Japanese automaker is testing the waters via a pilot program in Houston.
The Nissan Switch subscription program -- powered by Clutch Technologies LLC -- includes on-demand access to 11 models, including the Altima and Nissan Leaf Plus sedans; Rogue and Pathfinder crossovers; Titan and Frontier pickups; and 370Z and GT-R sports cars. Clutch, a unit of Cox Automotive, said last month it was working with 18 automotive brands and hinted that more announcements were coming this quarter.
The Nissan membership, which costs from $699 to $899 per month, includes unlimited vehicle swaps — as often as a vehicle a day. Vehicle delivery, insurance, roadside assistance and regular maintenance is included.
Nissan hopes to learn about consumer preferences related to the subscription model, Andrew Tavi, Nissan's vice president of business development told Automotive News.
The pilot will give Nissan data on the kinds of consumers likely to use the program, the types of vehicles most in demand and optimal pricing.
“Because we wanted to make sure to understand the consumer profile, it was important not to limit ourselves to the premium marketplace like some others have,” Tavi said. “We intentionally are offering a full model lineup so that we can give our customers the full range of options and flexibility.”
Nissan also hopes to gain insights about the dealership experience related to subscription programs. Dealership Central Houston Nissan will administer the subscription service and deliver vehicles.
“Dealers are always going to be the connection point with our customers,” Tavi said. “So we wanted to ensure that both Nissan as a brand and our dealers can learn how we need to continually adapt to these changing consumer preferences.”
It's doubtful Nissan is expecting mass volume from a subscription program, but it is trying different avenues to improve sales and give its vehicles more exposure, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds.
"Nissan has been very public about the desire to walk away from fleet and incentives," Caldwell said. "So they will likely be trying new programs to see if they can boost sales in a more organic manner."