Access by BMW: It’s like Netflix, but with BMWs



If you don’t want to buy a BMW or lease one, there’s now a third option: subscribe

SINGAPORE — Want to drive a different BMW every month? That’s just become an option, with the launch of Access by BMW, a subscription service that kicks off tomorrow. 

The service gives drives unlimited access to a range of BMWs in exchange for a monthly subscription fee.

Think of it as Netflix, but for BMWs. “I did not want to use that analogy, because that’s been overused,” groans Ritu Chandy, the regional chief executive of BMW Financial Services. “But yes, I would agree, it is a subscription service absolutely in that manner.”

The monthly fee includes insurance and taxes, roadside assistance and even maintenance. You simply create an account at Access by BMW when the site goes live tomorrow, add your payment details, request a car, and it’s delivered to you within 48 hours.

Driven to access: Ritu Chandy, Regional CEO, BMW Financial Services, pushed to introduce Access by BMW here

 

Subscriptions kick off at S$2,288 a month for a three-month term in a BMW 118i, with prices rising in tandem with how expensive a given model is. If you have S$3,488 to spare, you could do three month stints in a 520i or an X4 xDrive20i  — or S$3,788 for just the single month.

Singapore is only the second market in the world to get the service, after Nashville, Tennessee, where BMW launched it in April 2018. Lessons learnt there include the need to get the right model mix, and to make sure that car delivery goes smoothly. “Customers expect good cars from BMW, premium cars for sure. What changes with subscription is that they expect a premium experience,” Ms Chandy tells us.

“What they expect is a seamless experience online, a seamless experience in terms of delivery, the car being in great nick, perfect condition. They don’t want a car that’s dented in 10 places, and that’s where the right partner becomes very important.”

Here, that partner is Sime Darby; subsidiary Performance Motors is BMW’s authorised dealer, while another unit Sime Darby Services is the leasing company that will operate Access by BMW.

 

Ms Chandy describes Singapore as the “perfect market” for such a service. There is a tech-savvy and open-minded population here, she says. The idea of summoning all manner of things by phone certainly isn’t new to anyone here.

The always-connected millennial is one clear target group for Access by BMW. “Some of them think car ownership is more of a hassle than a privilege or entitlement,” she says. There is neither hassle nor commitment here. You’re not signed up to a five to seven year period,” she says. “Once you’re activated, a month is all you commit to.” 

Another potential customer is the person who only wants a car occasionally. “We’re talking about people who are traveling in and out; you’re here for a month, you’re off on assignment for a couple of months, you’re back for a month…” she says. She might be speaking from personal experience here — Ms Chandy covers 10 markets around the region and travels constantly. In June she was actually only at home for one weekend.

Then there’s the idea of ordering up a BMW as a treat. “Sunday night, you’re sitting there thinking, ‘It’s a very special occasion in my life next month.’ Anniversary, birthday, whatever. You’d love to do something special for yourself, and you saw a new X3,” she says. “You want to try it? Well, why not jump online to the Access website and set yourself up as a user? Activate your account and within 48 hours your car is delivered to your doorstep.”

What you do with that car is up to you, and when you’ve had enough of your X3 you can simply order a different BMW. 

If the service takes off here Ms Chandy intends to roll it out to more markets across the region. Driving fans are about to find out that there are better things to do on a Sunday night than sit around and watch Netflix.

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.