Care by Volvo is an affordable and convenient subscription service. For $600 a month you get a $35,000 car but essentially only pay for gas for two years. It sounds great. It sounded so great, in fact, that at launch a lot of people signed up. Way more than Volvo expected. That, along with some regulatory issues has caused delays in the delivery of those cars. It's a new problem, but not one that'll go away anytime soon as the industry transitions from how we buy cars to a future where we subscribe, rent, share or whatever.
Reports of Care by Volvo customers having their delivery dates moved (and not getting any official word on why from their concierges) have popped up in recent weeks. Nothing tarnishes the excitement of a new service or product like missed deadlines.
Jim Nichols, Volvo's product and technology communications manager, told Engadget that the automaker had some issues with the patchwork that is the United States regulatory system.
"We work closely with retailers in every state, and every state has different requirements for registration, insurance and everything else. As we put the program together and had all our paperwork in place, then some state and some areas had more questions than others," Nichols said.
Right now Care by Volvo is up and running in 48 states. According to Nichols, everything is in place for the remaining states (New York and Massachusetts) to give the automaker the go-ahead. So soon, those delayed XC40s will finally be in the hands of their eager customers.
The automaker also underestimated how many folks would sign up for the service. Volvo says that 92 percent of Care by Volvo customers are new to the brand. "It was a challenge going into it because there was no benchmark going into the program," Nichols said.
Expect to hear that a lot in the future as other automakers introduce features and services that haven't been tried before. At least not at scale. The United States is a mishmash of regulations and laws that can be difficult to navigate even for established automakers. Plus there's NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) which isn't always ready for cutting-edge technology. For example, the agency is still not on board with smart headlights like those offered by Audi and Mercedes.
Hopefully Care by Volvo customers will start getting delivery of their XC40s soon. Volvo is confident that it's ironing out all the issues with the service so that the launch of the V60 and S60 of Care by Volvo should be trouble free.
It's a learning process for everyone involved, and while it's an exciting time for transportation, change is hard and sometimes it means your shiny new thing is going to take a bit longer than you (and the company) expected.