The service doesn’t receive as much press as the new-car subscription services offered by a growing list of premium automakers, but Lincoln’s pilot project did carry many of the same aspirations. It just didn’t carry new cars.

Launched in California earlier this year, Lincoln’s subscription service offers users a range of older, contemporary models — insured, with maintenance covered — for a monthly fee that, depending on where you live, could secure a decent one-bedroom rental apartment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ford’s luxury division says demand for the service isn’t exactly red hot.

Speaking to Automotive News, Lincoln’s director of marketing, sales and service, Robert Parker, said it’s a love-’em-and-leave-’em situation. Besides the overall lack of public interest, the automaker discovered those who do sign up back out after a month or two.

“I’ve been surprised how few people are genuinely interested in that type of ownership,” Parker said. “If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said this is the next big thing. A lot of people are struggling to make the math work.”

Lincoln offers the service via the Ford-owned Canvas app. It was believed that, by swapping in and out of a number of vehicles (MKC, MKZ, MKX, Continental), subscribers might become interested in purchasing a new Lincoln. At the very least, Lincoln would make decent coin off of the 2015-2017 vehicles it preferred not to send to auction. A subscription ranges from $500 to $950 a month.

If that sounds pricey, rival Cadillac’s “Book by Cadillac” subscription service charges a flat $1,800 monthly rate, though users (in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas) gain access to new vehicles, including the top-flight CT6 and Escalade. The CTS-V, ATS-V, and XT5 round out the collection. Subscription services have garnered more than their fair share of detractors, including Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury, who called it a “rich person’s toy.”

Lincoln’s service ultimately attracted people whose car was in the shop, or were waiting to take delivery on a new vehicle. As such, for many the service was used in place of renting, rather than in place of leasing.

“The amount of people coming out after one or two months is very high,” Parker said. “It’s just kind of an interim process.”

What to do? Lincoln could bring the service closer to the dealership, Parker suggests, or perhaps tinker with vehicle availability. Despite the lacklustre demand, Lincoln doesn’t plan on dropping the service altogether — its potential usefulness in boosting exposure to the brand is too great, Parker said. It’s just a work in progress.

[Image: Lincoln Motor Company]




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