Editor's choice
2 Nov 18

Canada getting excited about sharing and subscriptions

Car ownership is out. In: mobility based on the sharing principle and on subscription services. The Canadian car industry has got the memo and is preparing for the future.

The formula is well known: technological change and shifts in consumer preference are powering the trend towards vehicles without owners (and one day even without drivers).

Increasingly flexible
Between now and then, we are seeing a proliferation of increasingly flexible lease programmes, designed to simplify and streamline the usage rather than the ownership of cars.

The most visible sign of change so far is Volvo’s introduction into Canada of its subscription service, Care by Volvo, which has already proved very successful in the U.S.

After a CA$500 (€333) deposit and for a flat monthly fee, subscribers get a Volvo for 24 months, with an annual mileage allowance of 24,000 km. Halfway through the contract, customers can opt to upgrade to another Volvo, resetting the subscription to another two years.

Service package
The service package includes maintenance, wear and tear protection, a 24/7 concierge service, roadside assistance, tire replacement and – unique to Canada – winter tires. However, insurance, which is included in the U.S., is not in the Canadian package. Instead, Volvo focused on offering the product with the same price throughout Canada.

As of now, Volvo by Care in Canada is available for the S60 (a compact saloon) and the V60 (a station wagon), each both in the Momentum or the R-Design trim. The first deliveries in Canada are expected for January. As the programme expands, more models and/or trims will become available. 

Volvo expects its subscription model to make up around 10% of its overall sales in Canada – a target already exceeded in the U.S.Volvo is not the only one to offer a subscription service in Canada. General Motors launched Maven in Toronto (pictured) earlier this year. Maven allows customers to choose from a fleet of company vehicles in what it bills as simplified rental.

Small co-ops
This type of vehicle provision was once the domain of small co-ops, which are now being taken over by larger companies. 

Avis Budget acquired Zipcar in 2013. Enterprise bought Toronto’s AutoShare in 2014 (and now offers CarShare in various Ontario cities). Daimler’s Car2Go programme is in operation throughout Calgary, Montréal and Vancouver. And in 2015, the British Columbia Automotive Association launched Evo, a carsharing network active in Canada’s Pacific province.

Montréal-based Communauto, at 24 years the oldest carsharing service in North America, also is one of the fastest-growing players in Canada. In March, it acquired Vrtucar, a co-operative serving several cities in southwestern Ontario and in September, it partnered with Pogo, based in Edmonton. In October, it launched its service in Toronto. 

Local protests
There has been some protest from locals, who see Communauto take up parking spots in their neighbourhood. But ultimately, 70% of Communauto members either sell their car or decide not to buy one, reducing the total number of cars on the road.

Turo, already available in a number of Canadian cities, presents vehicle owners with the exciting option of renting out their cars to others when they’re not using them themselves. 

With the possibility to benefit financially from sharing vehicles (their own, other others’) as an alluring prospect, it is likely that sharing services will multiply across Canada – and that the mobility landscape will be totally transformed over the next five years.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs