Just as subscription programs have had mixed results, so have platform providers. DriveItAway says it is profitable. Puente called Flexdrive "not far from profitable," but said it has opted to invest in international opportunities. Growth has been faster in Europe than in the U.S., he said.
FreshCar, the rebranded name for Detroit subscription company Carma Car, also said it is seeing international growth opportunities.
Fair, a used-vehicle subscription service based in Santa Monica, Calif., grew rapidly last year, buying Ford Credit's Canvas subscription platform reaching 65,000 subscribers — half being ride-hail drivers. Last fall, Fair laid off 40 percent of its staff amid financial woes and co-founder Scott Painter resigned as CEO. A Fair spokeswoman declined to comment.
DriveItAway's Possumato said 90 percent of business is ride-hail or subprime; many customers are profitable. "The general consumer, the 800 credit score, really isn't the low-hanging fruit right now really for the dealer," he said.
Too much focus on subprime or ride-hailing rings alarm bells for Tarun Kajeepeta, who sold his Condor Detroit subscription service to Mobiliti in mid-2018. Kajeepeta said some large-scale providers are putting vehicles in the wrong hands, sometimes ride-hail drivers who may not qualify for loans. Vehicles can be driven tens of thousands of miles a year, rapidly accelerating depreciation. Not appropriately accounting for that depreciation leads to a "house of cards," he said.
That said, Kajeepeta still believes in the model. He suggests using 2- to 3-year-old vehicles, eliminating multiple vehicle swaps, instituting a mileage cap and running background checks on drivers.