Car Subscription Poised to Overtake Traditional Car Buying and Leasing: PwC

PwC study reveals vehicle subscriptions are poised to reshape auto access, attracting nearly half of future car buyers.

George Skentzos

Head of Customer Experience

Published on 

June 7, 2024


Last updated on 

June 12, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • PwC UK's survey shows that 49% of consumers are leaning towards vehicle subscription services in the next five years.
  • The potential market for vehicle subscriptions in the UK alone could exceed £800 million annually.
  • Three distinct consumer groups—Vehicle Explorers, Conscious Budgeters, and Value & Convenience Seekers—are driving interest in car subscriptions.
  • The subscription model is a promising avenue for increasing electric vehicle adoption, addressing concerns over high upfront costs and rapid technological advancements.

A recent study by PwC UK reveals a significant tilt towards vehicle subscription services, signaling a potential reshaping of how consumers access and use personal vehicles.

Understanding Vehicle Subscription

Vehicle subscription services, comparatively a fresh avenue in automotive access, extend users the flexibility to possess a car without the long-term commitment conventional ownership demands. For a monthly fee, subscribers can drive away with a car of their choice, enjoying the perks of insurance, maintenance, and, often, roadside assistance without the upfront cost or hassle tied to purchasing or leasing. This model promises an alternative that could well align with modern consumer lifestyles, prioritizing flexibility and simplicity.

The Survey Speaks: A Substantial Market Awaits

A staggering 49% of consumers, according to PwC UK's survey, display a lean towards vehicle subscription within the next five years. This inclination translates into an annual market potential exceeding £800 million in the UK alone. Among these prospective subscribers, the majority (90%) had plans to purchase a car in the upcoming years, indicating that subscriptions could draw a considerable portion away from traditional buying.

Who's Who in the Subscription Arena

PwC identifies three distinct consumer segments eyeing vehicle subscription:

Vehicle Explorers

Representing 38% of the market, Vehicle Explorers are interested in car subscriptions primarily for the flexibility they offer in accessing different vehicles for different needs or desires.

Conscious Budgeters

Making up 33% of the market, Conscious Budgeters are attracted by the predictable cost structure of subscriptions, allowing better budget management by incorporating all related costs into a single monthly payment.

Value & Convenience Seekers

Accounting for 29% of the potential market, this segment values the overall convenience, savings during periods the car isn't in use, and bypassing traditional car ownership concerns like depreciation and battery life for electric vehicles.

Bridging the Gap to Electric Vehicles

A noteworthy driver behind the subscription model's allure is the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) market. With high upfront costs and rapid technological advancements posing concerns over obsolescence and depreciation, consumers find subscriptions a viable path to EV adoption. This method potentially sidesteps economic barriers while encouraging a shift towards sustainable automotive solutions.

Challenges Remain Amidst the Promise

Despite the rosy outlook, car subscriptions currently make up a mere 1% of UK car acquisitions, with profitability obstacles for providers. High maintenance and vehicle turnover costs, coupled with recent EV market downturns, underscore the challenges in scaling subscription models. Yet, with EVs poised as a crucial subscription catalyst, there lies untapped potential for substantial market growth.

Seizing the Substantial Potential

In a landscape ripe for change, the auto industry faces an imperative to reimagine ownership. As PwC's survey elucidates, nearly half of potential car buyers could pivot to subscriptions, suggesting an urgent need for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to innovate. Embracing subscription models, developing engaging offerings, and forging strategic partnerships could be key in unlocking this nascent market's full promise.

The road ahead for vehicle subscription services is both promising and littered with obstacles, yet the direction is unmistakably clear. As consumer preferences evolve and the shift towards electric vehicles gains momentum, the automotive industry must adapt to these emerging trends. The flexible model of car subscriptions holds the potential to redefine personal transportation - a change that could well be on the horizon.

About the author
George is the Head of Marketing and Customer Experience at Loopit. Having originally started his career as a motoring journalist and founding team member for one of Australia's top automotive startups, George has a strong passion for automotive, business and growth marketing.
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