Lincoln expands subscription service, launches online car-buying tech

Lincoln AviatorEven if you love your car, you may not love the process of haggling at a dealership, keeping up with maintenance, or finding a place to park it. Lincoln is trying to take some of the pain out of having a car with a host of new and expanded services.

Ford’s luxury brand will expand an existing subscription service for lightly used cars. Customers in West Los Angeles will get 24/7 access to a fleet 2017-model-year Lincolns for a monthly fee, which covers insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. The service will be offered through parent Ford’s Canvas program, and builds on a pilot Lincoln launched for both West Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2015.

Other luxury automakers, including Audi, Cadillac, and Porsche, have already launched subscription services, and the upcoming Volvo XC40 and Lexus UX crossovers will be offered on a subscription basis as well. Subscription services allow consumers to have access to a car when they need it, without having to deal with ownership issues when they don’t.

Lincoln also has a tech-infused solution for consumers going the more traditional buying or leasing routes. The automaker’s “Click-to-Purchase” program will allow customers to complete most of the buying process online, including checking dealer inventory, estimating the value of a trade-in, and applying for financing. It also calculates estimated taxes and fees based on a customer’s ZIP code. Customers can print out a certificate with an agreed upon price that dealers will honor for 48 hours.

Lincoln has tried to distinguish itself from other luxury automakers by offering more services to customers. Dealers will pick up for servicing and drop off a complimentary loaner vehicle at any reasonable location, and return the customer’s original car when the work is done. Lincoln claims to have completed more than 100,000 pickup and delivery trips since the program began in 2016.

There’s nothing high tech about hiring a chauffeur, but Lincoln can make that happen for customers too. Lincoln Personal Driver provides drivers that ferry customers around in their own cars. The service is currently operating in as a pilot in San Diego and Miami, and will soon expand to Dallas, Lincoln says.

Programs like the subscription service, online car buying, and chauffeurs could help rebuild Lincoln’s credibility as a luxury brand, and associate it with something other than terrible Matthew McConaughey commercials. But the services won’t matter much if the cars are no good. The 2019 Aviator, which was unveiled at the 2018 New York Auto Show and goes on sale next year, has a lot of style and a promising plug-in hybrid powertrain, but Lincoln has a long way to go to truly rival Cadillac and the German and Japanese luxury brands.

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