Cadillac's Shuttered Subscription Service Is Coming Back

Does this type of “customer” even exist? Photo: Cadillac

Book by Cadillac, the car subscription program shuttered by the automaker a year ago, is planning a surprise comeback next year as General Motors continues to try to figure out how to get people to like Cadillacs.

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Book was initially shut down last year after launching in Jan. of 2017 due to issues with the cost of the program and trouble with the back-end technology that disrupted customer service, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal at the time.

Deborah Wahl, GM’s chief marketing officer, revealed that the program will return in February, according to Automotive News:

“We do still see a lot of interest from consumers in finding different ownership models, but the right price, value, how we do that, how we bundle those services is what we’re working on,” Wahl told Automotive News in an interview earlier this year. She did not discuss pricing on Tuesday.

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Wahl said the learnings from that program were significant. Roughly 70 percent of users, she said, were conquest customers new to Cadillac.

“There’s really no one-size-fits-all solution for personal transportation,” she said.

While that 70-percent conquest figure sounds great on paper, there’s little context in the way of how many actual paying customers that factored out to during the two years of the initial program—though it certainly was not a lot.

A real reason for Book’s return may have to do with Cadillac’s upcoming plans to launch electrified vehicles. A subscription program that covers registration, taxes, maintenance, insurance and detailing with zero long-term commitment could be attractive for someone who wants to take an EV for a few months and see if it’s something feasible for their lifestyle.

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The ability to switch models essentially at any time means it’d be very easy to cozy up to an Escalade if the electric car didn’t work out.

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That could also help the dealerships backing Book by Cadillac from having to worry about determining demand for an EV and stocking an inventory of risky cars that ultimately may not sell all too hot. If they’re managing what’s essentially a fleet car, there’s potential for more money on the table for the dealer, rather than a heavy car sitting dead on a lot until big incentives come to move it.

It’s unclear how much a Book subscription could cost when it returns. The original price wasn’t too bad for what you were actually getting—even if maintenance coverage on a brand-new car doesn’t translate to a lot of savings in most cases—but the initial shock of the cost being more than similar programs from companies like Volvo may have been a bit of a setback. Then again, other similar programs have also cost twice as much.

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And there’s the question of who this is for. For New Yorkers, where the original program was launched, it was a hard bargain if you just wanted a car every other weekend. The cost of parking and gas in the area would be significant on top of the monthly fee if you weren’t driving all of the time.

But in more rural areas, where gas is cheaper and you can park in your driveway, being able to cycle through new Cadillacs every six months pretty much hassle-free still doesn’t sound like a bad deal.

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