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      08-05-2019, 09:29 PM   #1
Stepback3
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Access by BMW - One year review

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Access by BMW launched in August 2019 and I was (one of?) the first to sign up. (Note: it really launched in April 2019 but the pricing didn’t come into realistic territory until August 2019.)

My previous review focused on describing early impressions of the program and describing how it works. This review will focus on the changes to the program and cars. In addition, this review is going to summarize my thoughts on the long-term viability of the program. While this includes a lot of advice to BMW, I hope it helps you guys understand what it's like to actually be in the program--both the good and the bad.

But first let me give a good summary of my stats and the program as it stands today.

Cars and Stats
I’ve driven nearly 11,000 miles, made 54 switches and driven 18 different models of cards. That averages out to about a switch per week and a 1,000 miles per month. The total MSRP of cars driven, per the app, is $2,897,000.

Here’s the list of cars driven, ranked from my favorite to least favorite in each category.

• SAVs (5): 2018 X6M, 2019 X7 xDrive 50i, 2018 X5M, 2018 X5 xDrive35i, 2018 X5 xDrive40e
• Convertibles (6): 2020 Z4 m40i, 2019 i8 Roadster, 2018 M4, 2018 M6, 2019 m240i xDrive, 2019 440i
• Coupes (4): 2020 M340i xDrive, 2018 M4, 2018 M3, 2018 M2
• Sedans (3): 2018 M5, 2018 540i, 2018 530e
• Not Driven Yet: 2020 750i, 2020 m850i Convertible, 2019 X3 m40i, 2019 X5 m40i, 2019 440i Gran Coupe, 2018 i3

Changes to the Program
There have been a few changes to the program.

• The Icon Tier is now $999 and includes cars like the incredible M340i xDrive with Driver Assist Package and the X3 m40i.
• The M Tier, while still advertised, appears to be going away. I wouldn’t be surprised if it disappears soon. I’ve been told the M4 convertible is gone and getting the M5 is tougher and tougher to grab. The last time I drove through where they keep the fleet there were also few (if any) X5M and X6M. I’ll miss having these cars as an upgrade.
• There are quite a few cars that are not in a tier and can only be secured with an additional daily fee. These are the X7 xDrive 50i, 750i and m850i Convertible. Having these cars available is a good thing.
• No more same-day switches. You must request your switch at least 1 day in advance. Additionally, you now have to provide a 2 hour window for switches. (Prior to this you could request a specific time and oftentimes get same-day switches.)
• Some customers (including yours truly) used to get monthly free upgrades. I got an email a few months ago saying they were ending the free upgrade program and that “exciting changes” were coming. (Still waiting for those exciting changes!)

Changes to the Cars
• Unlimited Mileage! Previously it was 2,000 miles per month. This is a big deal.
• The “e” models have been phased out. (X5 xDrive40e, 530e). The i3 and i8 Roadster also appear to have been phased out. Aside from the i8 Roadster, I won’t miss any of them.
• They are phasing out the iDrive cars in favor of the cars with BMW Cockpit. However, this is painfully slow. I still haven’t been able to get the G05 X5–just the F15. It’s hard to get in a car with BMW Cockpit (e.g. M340i, Z4 M40i) and then go back to a car with iDrive!
• Speaking of cars being slow—it took several months after they advertised the M240i convertible to actually get one in. Same with the X3. Other cars that are now in the program (such as the incredible z4 m40i) aren’t even advertised. There’s a disconnect between what they advertise and what’s happening in the program.

Ok, with all the changes out of the way, let’s get to the opinions…

My Thoughts – Overall
After 1 year in the program, I would give the program a B-minus. I plan to continue Access for the time being.

My Thoughts – The Good

Being able to switch cars is a luxury that I have come to rely on. The added benefit of never having to wash a car, never worry about recalls/warranties or even maintain my own insurance policy is just icing on the cake. Being able to drive basically every car BMW makes is something almost no one could do prior to this program. I love it.

The cars are also getting optioned better. Many of the cars at first had basic option packages. Now, they are giving the cars the nice upgrades such as the advanced Driving Assistant packages, Laser Headlights, heated steering wheels, etc. (Plus, the newer cars have BMW Cockpit, which is a big upgrade.)

The concierge service (provided by Citron) is top-notch. They provide great service and always do a great job of answering questions / making sure switches go smoothly.

My Thoughts – The Bad

So, what are the downsides? It all has to do with how “fluid” vs. “stagnant” the program is. Think of it as a river vs. a nasty pond. When the water comes in and never moves anywhere, it gets nasty and builds up scum. When the water moves freely, it creates a river capable of recreation and transportation.

The program has two major stagnant factors that is causing the water to get a bit nasty.

The first is how slow they are to change the cars in the fleet. For example, the convertible used to be the 440i, which is about as bad a car as BMW makes. The new convertible is the Z4 m40i—a beast of a machine! Plus, it has all the latest technology. Another example is the G05 vs. the F15 X5. Right now the program only has a couple of the G05’s. It’s been about 3 months and they still haven’t replaced the F15s.

So, what do you think happens when someone gets the Z4? Or, what do you think happens when they graciously gives you the m850i or the M6 convertible? That’s right, people never give it up! Or, what do you think happens when someone gets a G05 X5? They know they got lucky so they hang on to it too long!

I’ve been guilty of this. I hung on to the X7 m50i until they said it was due in for a recall. I didn’t want to drive the X7 as long as I did. There were times I would have much rather had a smaller car. But, would I get the amazing M340i (new technology) or just a 440 coupe (old technology)?

My advice to BMW: Flip your fleet MUCH faster. People catch on quickly. Make your fleet more homogenous. If every car has great option packages, people won’t be tempted to over-keep it.

The second factor causing stagnation is there is no incentive to schedule your switches in advance. To understand why this is a problem imagine BMW has 20 convertibles in the program and all 20 of them are with customers because the weather has been beautiful. No one puts in a change request until the last minute. This means that customer #21 who may have put in a request three weeks ago has no idea if they will actually be confirmed to get a convertible until the last minute. Without knowing what cars will be moving in/out, the schedulers have no way to promise anything. They have to hope that a customer turns in a last-minute request. And because customers don’t get a confirmation until the last minute, they learn it’s not worth it to put in a request until the last minute. The whole thing is a downward spiral.

My advice to BMW: Encourage people to schedule switches far in advance. Often incentives such as weekend switches if they book at least x days in advance. Another idea would be to guarantee certain models ahead of time. For example, if someone wanted the X7 for a family vacation, putting in a request at least x days ahead of time may guarantee them the vehicle. Finally, I wouldn’t be opposed to putting caps on cars—such as 10 days. After 10 days BMW can take the car back with 24 hours’ notice. These ideas will cause you to have a better idea of what is going to be available which will allow you to confirm switches much earlier.

The times I feel stuck in a vehicle are the times I think about leaving the program. If you’re going to be in this program, you need to be of the mindset that switching cars is a good thing! Otherwise, you might as well purchase a car!

There is one other item other than stagnation that is becoming a problem—the transparency of the fleet. There is no visibility into the cars available. They operate on a needs-based system where if you say “I want a convertible” then they bring you a convertible. The only way I found out that the Z4 was available was by asking my concierge if there were new cars coming. I pretty much ask every single time I see the concierge. It’s the only way other than driving to the dealership to see the cars. It’s dumb and it’s time to evolve the program such that people can see the types of cars available in the fleet.

My Thoughts – The Business of Subscription
I can only assume that Nashville (and now Singapore) are tests for BMW and they would like this to do well so they can roll it out nationwide.

My advice to BMW: Move fast and break things. Act more like a tech company and less like a car company. Very little has changed with the program in 12 months. If you want to succeed, you have to iterate faster. This includes the app (which is decent—not great), the fleet, the pricing, the tiers of cars—everything!

They haven’t figured out the magic recipe yet. I’m a diehard fan for BMW and I love being on the bleeding edge of new tech/business. This program was built for me. But, to reach the masses and cross the chasm (H/T to Geoffery Moore), this thing needs to change faster.

From my vantage point, I can’t tell what the limiting factors are.

Is it the funding arm—BMW Financial? If so, that’s stupid. Be willing to lose a little more than you’re comfortable with and get to pass/fail faster!.

Is it the backend/tech provider—Clutch? I doubt it—I think they just do what BMW tells them to do. That said, I think they could encourage more tech-like thinking to BMW.

Is it the dealership (Sonic Automotive)? Quite possibly. They barely advertise the program on their website and there is virtually nothing about it at the dealership. I imagine they are way more incentivized to sell cars than offer the program. The program is a deal at $999 with no mileage limits and insurance included and cars ranging from $50-65k (M340i xDrive, m240i, X3) available. An X3 lease just can’t compare to that on a mileage basis alone.

Advice to Someone Considering the Program: Do your research. It is more expensive than a lease and is definitely a luxury item. However, when you really weigh out all the costs as well as your time, it is less expensive than you think.

Final advice to BMW: What you’re doing in Singapore is stupid. Specifically, calling it a subscription and saying it is a “three month term” is just like an expensive three month lease. If you switch the Nashville program to something like that, I’d be gone in a heartbeat. I want a convertible in the fall and to lock in for three months to a convertible would be miserable!

Instead, come up with ideas that encourage less stagnation and more switching. For example, what if you offered a two-car plan as entry level? Imagine offering the X3/m240 convertible combo for slightly less than the Icon plan is priced now--$899/month? What if you offered a discounted plan but you had to schedule all switches at least 21 days in advance? What if you earned upgrades by not requesting last minute cars? What if you could add a second car to your account (e.g. for your partner) just for special occasions? These are just ideas… the real key is… move fast and break things!

… and don’t let this thing stagnate!
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      08-06-2019, 09:51 AM   #2
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Good review. Thanks!
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      08-06-2019, 11:06 AM   #3
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Yeah, I just googled it and there's no way I'd pay $2,699 for the M tier.

That's just absurd.
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      08-06-2019, 11:32 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aerostar View Post
Yeah, I just googled it and there's no way I'd pay $2,699 for the M tier.

That's just absurd.
Totally agree. Not surprised it may be going away. Even in premium markets (e.g. LA) I don't think they could command that price.
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      08-06-2019, 11:51 AM   #5
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Thank you for writing this. It’s really helpful to get a firsthand account of how viable this program is as an alternative to traditional car ownership. Great free feedback for BMW too, i hope they’re reading!
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      08-06-2019, 08:02 PM   #6
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Fantastic review, Stepback3. I hadn't heard of this program so I just check the pricing. I definitely can't afford it on my salary, lol Still, great review and thank you.

https://www.accessbybmw.com/pricing/
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      08-08-2019, 02:50 AM   #7
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Amazing writeup and thanks for all the details. Frankly, it's the simple experience and lack of time wasted at a dealership that is very appealing to many people. Sounds like you were able to have a blast and drive more different models than probably most of the forum!

Do you get to basically pick any [new/used] car the dealer has in stock for your tier, or are there specific cars set aside for the program? I see a list of models on the Nashville website and I assume they have a few cars set aside there, but I wonder how they manage rotation on an (up to daily!) basis. I guess for a pilot, utilization doesn't need to be super high, and the economics would look better with a much larger, shared fleet in a region, and studying user behavior at the most convenient level is worth it.

I am so curious why they decided to offer this in Nashville, and not in a place like Seattle (or some other "yuppie" heavy city) where a lot of commitment-averse, non-car-owning millennial/GenX users may be very amenable and wanting something like this. People are otherwise stuck with things like Fair for medium-term renting/leases. Also helps young people whose insurance rates are higher, and dealing with

Maybe nearness to the SC plant, testing in a more "representative" market of the US? Still boggles my mind though.
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      08-09-2019, 02:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Do you get to basically pick any [new/used] car the dealer has in stock for your tier, or are there specific cars set aside for the program?
There is a specific fleet for this program that is separate from the cars available for sale from the dealership. It's a pretty diverse set of cars with more/different cars than they list on the website. (The website barely ever changes. Heck, even my user agreement with them still has all the old cars on it. They aren't very fast at updating digital assets.)

Whenever I go checkout the lot there is usually around 20-30 cars in the fleet. What I don't know is how many customers they have (who would all have 1 car). My guess is there is likely 50-100 cars in the fleet right now.

Quote:
I am so curious why they decided to offer this in Nashville, and not in a place like Seattle (or some other "yuppie" heavy city) where a lot of commitment-averse, non-car-owning millennial/GenX users may be very amenable and wanting something like this.
You haven't been to Nashville lately, have you?
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      08-10-2019, 08:30 AM   #9
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So it's $999 with insurance included? It's not horrible if someone drives A LOT (heavy commuting) now that it's unlimited mileage.
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      08-10-2019, 08:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 10" View Post
So it's $999 with insurance included? It's not horrible if someone drives A LOT (heavy commuting) now that it's unlimited mileage.
Quote:
Originally Posted by 10" View Post
So it's $999 with insurance included? It's not horrible if someone drives A LOT (heavy commuting) now that it's unlimited mileage.
Correct. Also consider free satellite radio, unlimited switches, never having to wash your car or even go to a gas station. Even scheduling oil changes and standard maintenance goes away.
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      08-10-2019, 08:56 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stepback3 View Post
Correct. Also consider free satellite radio, unlimited switches, never having to wash your car or even go to a gas station. Even scheduling oil changes and standard maintenance goes away.
They go to the gas station for you and bring it back?
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      08-10-2019, 08:59 AM   #12
Stepback3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alex2364 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stepback3 View Post
Correct. Also consider free satellite radio, unlimited switches, never having to wash your car or even go to a gas station. Even scheduling oil changes and standard maintenance goes away.
They go to the gas station for you and bring it back?
Quote:
Originally Posted by 10" View Post
So it's $999 with insurance included? It's not horrible if someone drives A LOT (heavy commuting) now that it's unlimited mileage.

No. But 90% of the time I switch cars before it needs gas. If the car is getting a little dirty or needs gas, I just switch. It's a different mindset when you can change a car whenever you want.
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      08-13-2019, 02:31 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stepback3 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by alex2364 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stepback3 View Post
Correct. Also consider free satellite radio, unlimited switches, never having to wash your car or even go to a gas station. Even scheduling oil changes and standard maintenance goes away.
They go to the gas station for you and bring it back?
Quote:
Originally Posted by 10" View Post
So it's $999 with insurance included? It's not horrible if someone drives A LOT (heavy commuting) now that it's unlimited mileage.

No. But 90% of the time I switch cars before it needs gas. If the car is getting a little dirty or needs gas, I just switch. It's a different mindset when you can change a car whenever you want.
You don't have to return it with the same fuel level?
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      08-13-2019, 01:48 PM   #14
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You don't have to return it with the same fuel level?
Correct. The concierge will bring the car to you, swap out all your stuff, set all your settings, then take your old car and fill it up with gas and text you how much it was. I'll usually get a text about 20 minutes after a switch that says something like "Fuel charge for the X5 was $38.22. Enjoy the M3!" (They only charge you for what the gas actually costs. No fees.)
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      08-13-2019, 01:59 PM   #15
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Is it tied to one location? Could you for example drop off your car, fly somewhere, and then pick up a car there instead of a rental?
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      08-13-2019, 02:02 PM   #16
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Is it tied to one location? Could you for example drop off your car, fly somewhere, and then pick up a car there instead of a rental?
I wish. Right now it's only Nashville. My hope is that they expand they can do that type of thing in other cities as members travel. I recently had to drive a Cadillac as a rental in another city. It boggles the mind how I pay basically $40/day for my BMW which is so much better than the Cadillac I paid $90/day for.
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      09-05-2019, 07:50 AM   #17
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I see that Legend tier has the M2.
Would a manual M2 be out of the question in this program?
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      09-05-2019, 12:51 PM   #18
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I see that Legend tier has the M2.
Would a manual M2 be out of the question in this program?
At one point they had a couple manuals. Not sure if they still do.
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      09-06-2019, 03:38 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stepback3 View Post
You haven't been to Nashville lately, have you?
Nope, recently saw a stat that Nashville has some of the highest population growth including of the young college educated crowd, the location choice makes a lot of sense now!

Quote:
It boggles the mind how I pay basically $40/day for my BMW which is so much better than the Cadillac I paid $90/day for.
This is the beauty of venture and investment capital burning - very rare in the car market. Enjoy while you can!


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      09-12-2019, 11:47 AM   #20
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This is very encouraging to hear and very thoughtful feedback. I think for a decent group of luxury buyers/leasers with short attention spans who get bored of cars easily (me being potentially one), this is a pretty decent solution.

Thanks!
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      09-12-2019, 11:58 AM   #21
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I'll pass, as I enjoy ordering a new lease every 3 years to my color options fully loaded.

Not surprised that the M tier is history soon, uptake was probably very low that the legend tier customers were receiving those M vehicles. With the M3 out of production and the the M4 nearing EOP, leaves only the M5 and M2. M8 is just reaching the US market and G85/G86 market reveal is in 3 weeks.
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      09-12-2019, 12:10 PM   #22
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How many people are in the program in Nashville?
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