Subscription Seen as a Branding Tool
The Germain Motor Company tests the concept in Columbus, Ohio
On paper it wasn’t the easiest sell, but a year after launching the Drive Germain subscription service the duo behind the program is seeing benefits across the company.
“We buy from our stores, sell back to our stores, service and repair at our stores,” says Austin Germain, Brand Experience Manager for Germain Motor Company, explaining how the program is integrated into multiple parts of the business.
Drive Germain offers subscribers access to more than 50 vehicle models across 15 manufacturers. Originally launched with new vehicles only, they’ve since expanded after learning the features that really matter to the customers.
“Customers want clean, newer technology in the car, but were less sensitive to mileage,” says Jessica Germain, General Manager of Germain Mercedes-Benz. “So we added certified pre-owned, which also softens the depreciation curve.”
The personalized experience is key
Drive Germain has a dedicated concierge who maintains a relationship with each customer and pays close attention to the details. When Germain delivers a new vehicle to a subscriber, they’ll adjust the seat to the right position and pre-set the customer’s favorite radio stations so the transition is as seamless as possible.
“We use customer data to learn their preferences and habits,” says Jessica. “This group is highly engaged. They text through our app constantly and are willing to give feedback.”
The data that customers provide enables Germain to anticipate when a customer is ready for their next vehicle and the dealership will send a prompt to the customer when a vehicle they may like is available. The subscribers are invested in the program and they take great care of the vehicles, Jessica shared with industry leaders at the recent Chase Automotive Summit for CEOs.
“It’s an alternative ownership experience to buying or leasing,” says Austin. “And people will pay a premium for it. They like the experience.”
Branding and retention
Germain found that about one third of the users are short-term participants who are using the subscription service to see which vehicle they may want to buy or lease. One third live elsewhere and only need a vehicle for part of the year. And the final third want the flexibility of getting into a new car faster than a typical lease.
The Germains have also found that the program has enhanced their brand and reach.
“It is a retention tool. Our name and family business will be top of mind when these customers are in market for a car,” says Austin. “It’s enhanced our brand as it’s an extension of our company.”