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‘Netflix for cars’ Cadillac BOOK model could throw top-trim tech at collision repairers, demand OEM parts

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Business Practices | Market Trends | Repair Operations | Technology

Dubbed “Netflix for cars” by Yahoo Finance, Cadillac earlier this month announced a new “BOOK” program which allows drivers to rent any combination of Cadillacs they want for a flat monthly fee.

As Cadillac describes it, a user requests a Caddy through a mobile app, and a “white-glove concierge service” drops it off wherever they want. Get bored with your current Cadillac model or need a larger one, and your white-gloved friend will handle the switch. Users can get current-year Platinum-trim Cadillacs, according to the OEM, which specifically mentioned the CT6, Escalade, XT5 and V Series being available.

The program will start in New York City with plans to expand elsewhere. Users pay $1,500, which includes insurance, maintenance, registration and taxes. The program is purely month-to-month — no three-year lease lock-in — and Cadillac won’t restrict mileage. For comparision, we plugged in a random NYC ZIP code of 10007 into Cadillac’s website and found an Escalade lease of $849 — but that’s less flexible and doesn’t include costs already baked into the BOOK price — including what’s got to be pricey insurance for a top-trim, current-model Cadillac.

“BOOK by Cadillac is an innovative new option targeted at a growing class of luxury drivers searching for access to various cars over time, dependent on their individual needs, coupled with a hassle-free white-glove exchange,” Cadillac Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus said in a statement.

Cadillac spokesman Eneuri Acosta said Tuesday all the BOOK vehicles and drivers will be covered by liability, comprehensive and collision insurance. He wasn’t sure which insurer was used for BOOK, which will start in New York City with plans to expand elsewhere.

Acosta said maintenance and collision repair would be handled by dealerships and dealerships with body shops. (The CT6 uses a special network of body shops given its advanced aluminum-steel design, and the list’s dearth of dealerships in the New York City area suggests to us independents might see some work on that car under BOOK.)

Acosta said that as with leases, Cadillac would want OEM parts used in repairs.

“It would be similar to that,” Acosta said.

The BOOK model presents an interesting option for Americans in the grey area between the current system of car ownership, leasing and rentals and what “mobility” futurists project will be a fleet of unowned, ride-shared self-driving cars running around for use on demand.

“We’ve definitely gotten great feedback so far,” Acosta said.

Should other General Motors makes or other OEMs adopt the Cadillac model, it presents an interesting series of challenges for dealership and unaffiliated auto body shops used for the repairs.

Current-model, top-trim cars, trucks and SUVs are going to be state-of-the-art in terms of sensors, cameras, lidar, advanced headlights and such — and that applies to mainstream vehicles as well as $90,000 Escalades. That’s going to demand repairers are ready to properly scan and calibrate the vehicles. Current-model vehicles are also going to be the most likely to use cutting-edge lightweighting techniques as models reach new design generations. That means ultra-high-strength steels, aluminum, magnesium and composites for substrates and joining techniques like rivets, MIG brazing, structural adhesives, flow-drill screws, etc.

Also intriguingly, the model suggests an ever-changing vehicle fleet in one’s market could be possible. It’s very likely that consumer inertia won’t lead to a BOOK customer swapping out models daily, but what happens if suddenly 10 percent of Escalade owners switch to CT6s? Or vice versa during a snowstorm? What does that do for a dealership or unaffiliated body shop? These vehicles would have to be registered, which would still give repairers an idea of everything existing in a marketplace, but one would have to be ready for some consumer whims changing what proportion of cars and SUV classes within that population was driving around and getting into collisions.

“Members can just as easily take to the winding roads in a performance V Series and enjoy a back-mountain winter ski trip in an Escalade in the same week,” Cadillac wrote in a news release. “Alternatively, they can keep an SUV during the winter months and switch to a performance sedan during the summer, with each vehicle picked up and delivered to their doorstep.”

Or for the sake of argument, let’s pretend GM expands BOOK to Chevy. It’s not hard to see a situation where your customer might drive a Bolt around five days a week for commuting without paying for gas, switches to an Equinox for the family on the weekend, and then twice a month gets a Silverado to haul a boat around or buy sofas. How do you prepare for that?

Even if Cadillac shutters BOOK, these are the kinds of questions repairers are going to want to ask themselves as OEMs and other companies aggressively chase new “mobility” models.

More information:

“Introducing BOOK by Cadillac, a Bold New Luxury Vehicle Subscription Model”

Cadillac, Jan. 5, 2017

BOOK website

Featured image: The logo for Cadillac BOOK is shown. (Copyright General Motors)