While not a new concept overseas, vehicle subscription is a relatively new phenomenon in Australia, with more and more motorists shunning potentially expensive traditional vehicle ownership for the flexibility and adaptability offered by this alternative model.
Described by some as the Netflix of vehicle ownership, subscription allows a client to select their vehicle and pay a simple monthly fee.
They can cancel the deal at any time and, understandably for some, this makes perfect sense for their transport requirements.
Queensland-based Everything Fleet is one of the first organisations to provide the vehicle subscription approach, and more recently they’ve teamed-up with Isuzu Trucks to offer a subscription-based alternative to commercial truck fleets and businesses involved in road transport in and around the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
With more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, Managing Director Keith Alexander is no stranger to the transactional vehicle rental space, having moved to the Gold Coast in his early twenties and started in the vehicle rental business as a vehicle detailer in a Thrifty franchise.
“Eventually I had the opportunity to take an ownership stake in the business,” says Keith. “I was a franchisee of Thrifty for 17 years on the Gold Coast.”
While Keith enjoyed his time with the Thrifty brand, the relationship ended when Thrifty’s parent company, Hertz, went into administration in 2021.
This led to the Thrifty brand dissolving all existing franchise agreements in Australia.
“The break-up of that relationship triggered the decision to move out on our own,” Keith said. “We parted ways with the national franchisor, which created some freedom for us to look more closely at the subscription model.”
Investing in change is not without risk, but after three decades of being immersed in the industry, Keith suggested the perfunctory nature of car and truck rental may have seen its time.
“I want to say that there’s been a lot of change with the rental industry over my time, but I really can’t,” he says. “Vehicle rental is straightforward as a concept, it’s transactional in nature and that extends to the interaction or relationship with the customer. As our business has evolved over the years, we’ve moved further way from the tourist market to focus more on commercial and corporate customers, which has given us a really strong base to work from in switching to subscription.”
From a truck operator’s perspective, the key selling point of subscription is its flexibility.
Whether for a retail owner-driver or a small business with a transport function, subscription is pitched as a hybrid between traditional leasing and rental, and also as an alternative to new truck purchasing.
There are no onerous financial commitments and there are also no long-term agreements in place if business situations shift or change.
Subscription arrangements can be as short as one month. Keith suggests these are all attractive traits, especially to retail and small business customers looking for an efficient way to deliver on their transport needs.
“It provides flexibility at the end of the day. They can opt out at any stage and re-engage if their circumstances change again. It’s highly adaptable to a number of scenarios,” he says. “We’ve had great take-up with passenger cars already and we’re confident we’ll have a positive response in the light truck side of things as well. We’ve been really happy with the model so far.”
For its growing commercial truck offering and with the pitch of flexibility and adaptability at its core, Everything Fleet looked to the broad range of Isuzu trucks and their renowned reliability.
With more than 160 models across the Isuzu line-up, Keith determined that not only did they have what the business needed on paper, the long-time truck market leaders could deliver as well.
“For us, it was Isuzu’s range, the quality of the product and the re-sale value that were the key factors we liked,” Keith says. “We looked at other competitors and they just didn’t have the range of vehicles we were after. We believe the Isuzu product represents really great value, and when you add to that the re-sale value of the vehicle it is an obvious advantage.”
A critical driver of the important ‘whole of life cost’ is aftersales support and service, which is another vital area in which Isuzu couldn’t be matched, according to Keith.
“The support we get through Isuzu’s national fleet team is solid and we’re talking with them regularly,” he explains.
“Locally, we get all our Isuzu product via Gold Coast Isuzu and their service is just exceptional.” Headlining the Isuzu presence in the Everything Fleet truck lineup is a range of mostly N Series light trucks, including the popular NQR 87-190.
The Southport-based fleet also includes a range of medium-duty Isuzu models, including the 14,000 kg GVM FSR 140-260.
Predominantly aimed at general freight and last mile delivery tasks, the Isuzu trucks are all bodied by the team at Gold Coast Isuzu, with a wrapped van body and tail-lift applied to the NQR models.
With 140kW of power and a GVM of 8,700 kg, the Isuzu NQR model finds itself perfectly positioned for several end-uses called upon by many of Keith’s clients.
Common to the N Series range in this weight segment is the availability of Isuzu’s six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT), which, when mated with the N Series’ Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) makes for an extremely safe and drivable package, regardless of the task at hand.
“The Isuzu product is extremely drivable, and especially for those people who are used to driving a car. We hear that they prefer to drive the Isuzu product as opposed to other brands,” Keith says.
“Even from our staff moving vehicles around for delivery or pick-up we get the same feedback about the comfort and drivability of the Isuzu product. Personally, I’d have to admit that I prefer driving them too.”
According to international market research, the automotive subscriptions market is booming, having grown 71 per cent from 2018 to 2022.
“We see subscription as being a significant piece of our future business, especially in the corporate and commercial markets,” says Keith.
“We’re getting a lot of interest on the truck side of the business and customers are very inquisitive about how it all works. At the end of the day, it’s about establishing and building relationships. We want to tailor our offer to the needs of individual clients — that’s where it’s very different to rental.”