How ride-sharing is helping Subaru build brand reach

Car manufacturer's marketing and local business leader talk about an innovative partnership aimed at expanding product reach to new demographics

Subaru XV 2.0 iL
Subaru XV 2.0 iL

Car makers know the power of a test drive in convincing a would-be buyer. But how do you get a person to test a car they would never have considered?

Subaru has found an innovative way of having potential buyers experience its vehicles, albeit if most of them do so from the passenger seat.

In partnership with car sharing service, DriveMyCar, it is putting cars in the hands of Uber drivers, and in turn, potentially thousands of ride-share users every week.

DriveMyCar CEO, Chris Noone, said his company began working with Uber in 2016 after identifying a market opportunity with would-be UberX drivers who didn’t own their own vehicle.

“We started working with Subaru late last year, initially with the Levorg vehicles, and made those available to both private renters and Uber drivers,” he said. “And then we started to build up the collaboration with Subaru to work on new model launches as well.”

When Subaru came to launch the latest generation of its Impreza compact family car this year, the carmaker made 101 cars available to UberX drivers through the DriveMyCar fleet. According to Subaru managing director for Australia, Colin Christie, the company’s strategy is two-pronged.

“One is to get more exposure around the whole car sharing piece,” he told CMO. “The second is to use it as a marketing platform for the Impreza.

“Getting potential customers to engage with our product, whether driving or riding in them, builds exposure and gets people to think about the product in a different light. And really it is a test ride for customers who maybe haven’t experienced our product before.”

Subaru Australia general manager of marketing, Amanda Leaney, said her company treats the relationship with Uber and DriveMyCar as another advertising channel - albeit one where people can touch and feel the product in a way that can‘t be delivered through a normal channel.

“We looked at this opportunity to ask how we could deliver an experience that goes beyond what film or digital formats can traditionally deliver,” she said.

The relationship also lines up well with Subaru’s target audience for the Impreza of millennial drives.

“We initially started researching who was the type of buyer that engaged with Uber, and they confirmed that around 70 per cent of their usage base was under 35,” Leaney said. “Our goal with Impreza was about reaching a younger demographic in new and innovative ways. So we saw it as an opportunity to reach the target audience that we were going after, to give them an experience in a Subaru that they might otherwise have not considered as their part of a car buying experience.

“What we were most excited about is the opportunity to use it as a tool across the whole customer path-to-purchase. So we’re not measuring it by sales, but by reach first and foremost.”

Information provided back to Subaru includes estimates on the number of rides and the kilometres travelled by each vehicle, as well as its overall visibility on the road.

The relationship also presents sales opportunities for Subaru. The Impreza’s are made available to DriveMyCar users at a discounted rental basis (enabling Subaru to earn back the cost of having the vehicles on the road), with UberX drivers welcome to purchase the vehicles.

“Then we have a few point-of-sale materials inside the car for customers, to encourage them to book a test drive with one of our dealers,” Leaney said. “But it is seen as a reach platform, to give customers an experience in our product, not just push communications in front of them.”

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