For three months this past Fall we had the opportunity to participate in a pilot program exploring a new business concept and consumer experience for luxury car sharing. Today, BOOK by Cadillac goes live in the NYC metro area with a $1500 monthly service that removes the hassle from car ownership, with added benefits like being able to swap between the brand’s different models (all are the latest models with top level appointments) based on your specific need delivered when and where you desire, and additional benefits like a concierge to help take care of other needs. The intent is to allow you to enjoy life’s experiences by eliminating the hassle, cost and inconvenience of owning a car.
The program unveiled today maintains the key points of the pilot we participated in, but with some basic refinements that resulted from insights our twenty-some-odd cohorts offered during the regular feedback sessions we joined. Overall, our experience was seamless—we had a car in our garage, usually a CT6, but on weekends when we wanted something different we used the BOOK app to schedule a swap. Swapping happened in the background so we simply found an Escalade or ATS-V in our parking spot waiting when we needed it, though others loved the in-person delivery whenever they scheduled it. Our pattern was to have a regular car and then swap for special occasions, however other program participants swapped more frequently without playing favorite to one model over another. It’s that seamlessness, combined with the fact that every car we drove felt brand new, that differentiates BOOK from other car sharing services. Luxury means not dealing with the hassles of registrations, maintenance or insurance and luxury means not finding remnants of strangers having been in “your” car. In fact, the few personal items we kept in the car—a USB cable, sunglasses, etc.—were taken from our old car and placed in exactly the same spot in our new one.
During the pilot program we noticed that the cars had a range of trim levels—some featuring the highest-end “Platinum” spec while others had more basic packages. We’re pleased to know that for the official program all cars will have the Platinum trim level. During the pilot there were some restrictions to how often you could access the performance cars and other restrictions around swaps, but the official version has removed these limits keeping with the overall themes of simplicity and seamlessness. Luxury shouldn’t have boundaries.
Overall, we were impressed with Cadillac’s solution for how to bring car sharing and luxury together. To better understand the nuances of what BOOK by Cadillac means for the brand’s business, we sat down with Melody Lee, Director of Global Marketing.
People, especially city dwellers, have so many alternatives to traditional car ownership today. How did Cadillac identify the need that BOOK fulfills, and who are you marketing it to? Is this a new audience for Cadillac?
We believe there is an as-yet untapped space between traditional ownership (leasing, financing, buying) and the rental, ride or car sharing options available today (Car2Go, rental, Zipcar, Uber) — a space where experience is more important than ownership, but a luxury experience is paramount. That’s where BOOK comes in. BOOK provides all the joy of ownership, but with the flexibility, simplicity and ease of sharing — and it does this through a seamless experience that’s tailored to our members and their needs. We do think that there is a growing group of customers who want a luxury vehicle on their own terms, and that’s exactly what BOOK fulfills.
How does BOOK deliver Cadillac’s vision of luxury?
We’re seeing this trend of luxury customers rejecting things, and seeking the time and ability to have experiences. Time is the greatest luxury these days, it seems, and that’s what BOOK is intended to provide, aside from the terrific vehicle experience. BOOK is designed to create more possibility for today’s luxury drivers by being simple (no long-term commitment, inclusive fee structure, app-enabled), personal (concierge who knows our customers’ preferences and passions) and flexible (easy exchanges, concierge delivery.
Does BOOK work best in an urban environment—key metro areas like NYC and LA? Or do you see it evolving to be available nationwide?
In an ideal world, BOOK provides you the vehicle of your choice wherever you go. Because it allows you to always have a car in your possession, it is both an urban and suburban program that could work in cities across the US.
From a business standpoint, is BOOK a loss leader that is meant to convert people to purchase or lease a new Cadillac, or can it be a successful business unit on its own?
As with any new business model, BOOK should be considered on the merits of its long-term potential, and taking into consideration our plans for growth and scale in major markets across the U.S. in years to come, we are optimistic that BOOK will become a sustainable business model on its own.
We were fortunate enough to participate in the beta for BOOK in NYC over several months in the fall of 2016. What were the key takeaways that came out of that?
The initial New York pilot gave us innumerable insights into the preferences, behaviors and responses of today’s luxury consumer. The insights were incredibly valuable when applied for the next phase of BOOK, whether it was related to operations, marketing or customer experience. The biggest takeaway was that BOOK is not about the car; it’s about what the car can create in possibility for our customers.
Wth contributions from Evan Orensten