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Nissan launches $699-per-month subscription service in Houston

Nissan is the latest automaker to experiment with subscription services. The automaker’s Nissan Switch service gives customers access to cars without the long-term commitment of a traditional lease or purchase. Nissan is conducting a trial of the service through a single dealership in Houston, with no definite plans to expand.

After paying a $495 membership fee, customers in the Greater Houston area get access to a selection of cars for a flat monthly fee. Subscribers can switch cars as many times as they like in a month, as often as once per day. If you get Nissan Switch, you could drive a practical sedan during the week and switch to a sports car on the weekend, or borrow a pickup truck for a Home Depot run. The monthly fee also includes delivery, cleaning, insurance, roadside assistance, and regular maintenance.

The service has two price tiers. The base Select tier costs $699 a month and includes the Nissan Altima, Rogue, Pathfinder, and Frontier. The Premium tier costs $899 a month, and includes the Leaf Plus electric car, Maxima, Murano, Armada, Titan, and 370Z. Premium-tier subscribers can also get the GT-R — Nissan’s flagship sports car — for an additional $100 per day, with a seven-day consecutive use cap.

Nissan Switch will be run by a dealership — Central Houston Nissan. The dealership will be charged with delivering cars to subscribers and explaining any features those subscribers may not be familiar with.

Luxury automakers like Audi and Porsche have tried out subscription services that allow customers to switch cars, but Nissan is the first mainstream brand to try it. In addition to the flexibility of switching cars depending on need, subscription services have been touted by automakers as a more streamlined alternative to traditional buying and leasing. Two startups — Canoo and Fisker — even plan to offer vehicles primarily through subscription services, sidestepping dealerships.

Nissan’s inclusion of a dealership in its subscription service indicates that avoiding them may not be so easy. Dealerships fought the Care by Volvo subscription service (which requires customers to stick with a single car), claiming it violated franchise laws that prevent automakers from selling cars directly to customers. Many car buyers may loathe dealerships, but they are well entrenched and likely to continue viewing subscription services as a threat to their business.

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