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Ford's Canvas monthly car subscription car service expands to LA

Darrell Etherington

Canvas is expanding beyond its home city of San Francisco, with an expansion of its monthly subscription car ownership model to Los Angeles – possibly the most car-loving city in the world. The LA expansion marks the first time Canvas has spread its wings beyond its founding territory, and since it was acquired by Ford's credit division late in 2016.

The Canvas model is relatively simple compared to existing lease and buy options – customers can get vehicles on a month-to-month basis, with no longer term commitments, with a single monthly payment that covers the cost of vehicle maintenance, warranty, roadside assistance and car insurance, as well as the cost of the car itself. This fee averages out to around $400 to $500 per month, which isn't that far off from what you'd pay with a more traditional lease and insurance anyway.

"We launched the product in early May just in the Bay Area, and have seen very strong and positive response from customers," explained Canvas CEO and founder Ned Ryan. "If you think about the Bay Area, not necessarily the most car-centric city, so I think we were really impressed with that response. If you think about LA, maybe the most car-centric city in the U.S., we're really excited to see the response there."

Other automakers, including Cadillac and Porsche, have launched premium vehicle subscription services, but Canvas thinks the model can apply across segments and serve different customer, per Ryan. The models is similar in other ways, however, including offering delivery of the vehicle once it's reserved via the app.

Ryan says that both Ford's credit division, which is the part of the automaker that acquired the startup, and Canvas itself, bring different expertise and experience to the table in tailoring the service and making sure it addresses the needs of customers and market realities. In the Bay Area, Canvas currently has "hundreds" of customers, and Ryan believes there's plenty of potential for growth, with plans to expand further in California after the LA launch, too.

Canvas is focused primarily on delivering a usable product right now that works with today's vehicle options, but Ryan said its tech is also building tons of expertise in fleet management and deployment, which could eventually apply to autonomous car services in future. For Ford, it's a way to experiment with changing market trends today while laying the groundwork for some of its more ambitious plans, and yet another example of automakers looking to change up fundamental aspects of the way in which they do business.