Book by Cadillac: The New Luxury Car Service Is Like Netflix for Escalades

Cadillac’s new subscription service is seriously making us rethink owning a car. The new service Book by Cadillac threatens to upend traditional car ownership and put a fleet of luxury SUVs, sedans, ad coupes into the ready hands of Millennials and other skeptics who’ve resisted the costs and headaches of buying. For a flat $1,500 a month, users of the newly launched program, which debuts today in the New York metro area, get access to the latest top-end Cadillac vehicles, in arrangement that’s a little bit like leasing, a little bit like car-sharing, and a little bit like nothing else.

Here’s how it will work: After providing Cadillac with your driver’s licence and credit card, the company will set you up with a mobile app (for Android and iPhone) that lets you select which kind of car you’d like to drive. You’ll have the vehicle hand-delivered for as long as you like, then you can arrange to swap it for another, whenever the mood strikes. You might drive an Escalade for a month then decided to try at XT5 crossover; you might try a CT6 sedan for a few weeks ten move to an Escalade. The membership fee covers pretty much everything – including insurance and maintenance but not fuel and tolls – and the month-t0-month model requires no long-term contract.

It’s not quite leasing, which is essentially renting a car for a multi-year term. Nor is it quite like traditional car rental, since you don’t return a vehicle after a few days. It’s not exactly car-sharing, either, since you don’t pay for the hour or face restrictive mileage limits. Instead, Book by Cadillac is a entirely new form of car ownership that, paradoxically, doesn’t require you to own a car. “It’s not about ownership and possession, it’s about experience,” Cadillac’s Eneuri Acosta says.

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It’s tempting to compare the model to Netflix or ClassPass, but those services simply lower the barriers to things like spinning sessions or renting movies – things we were already doing. Book by Cadillac, which the carmaker says will eventually expand from New York across the country, could fundamentally change the ways we move around. The theoretical future of the fledgling program is intriguing: What if you lived in New York but had a business trip to Los Angeles coming up? You might drive yourself to the airport in an Escalade, drop off your vehicle at the garage, and, once in LA, pick up the same  make and model for your four day trip on the West Coast. All this would be managed through Cadillac’s app, at no extra charge for this or any other kind of car swapping. (While users ca’t yet do this, the company says it’s working on making these sorts of cross-country swaps possible).

While Book by Cadillac is slightly more expensive than a straight-ahead lease plus insurance, it gives users the flexibility to pick whatever vehicle feels right for the moment: An Escalade for winter driving to ski resorts, a 464-horsepower ATS-V coupe for summer road trips, a sure-footed CT6 for when your parents are in town, or an XTS5 for Ikea runs. The greatest thing about the service may still be on the horizon: If Book by Cadillac does go nationwide, users may never have to wait in line at the car rental desk again.

CN Traveler | January 2017
Paul Brady

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