Eric Flow

Eric Flow of Flow Motors. Flow Automotive Cos. is introducing Drive Flow with Clutch. Drive Flow is a monthly subscription service that provides a more flexible alternative to car ownership or leasing.

Flow Automotive Cos. has a new service that it is calling an option for people who don’t want to buy or lease a car.

The monthly subscription service, called Drive Flow with Clutch, is operated on a platform provided by Clutch Technologies, a technology company based in Atlanta, Ga. Formed in 2014, Clutch is backed by Kenzie Lane, a venture capital incubator firm, also in Atlanta.

With Drive Flow, people can flip the vehicle of their choice from a commuter car to a weekend adventure vehicle.

Eric Flow, president of Flow Management Services for Flow Automotive, said that dealership officials had been tossing around the idea of providing people with more flexibility in their vehicle ownership for the past 15 to 20 years.

“They want to have the opportunity to drive multiple, different types of cars that helps them in their lifestyles, and it’s also really fun — an opportunity to make driving and ownership fun,” Eric Flow said.

He said that every dealership offers leasing, but with a traditional lease, people have one car for somewhere between 24 and 48 months.

“We wanted to say, ‘What could we do for customers who say, ‘My life is more complicated than that. I would love to have a convertible every now and then, then a truck and an SUV to put the kids and the dogs in,’” he said.

He said that Flow Automotive was lucky to find Clutch, who had a similar idea of creating a membership, subscription-based service with no long-term contracts.

“It was a great fit,” Eric Flow said. “We have a really similar vision for what we want to deliver in terms of the customer experience.”

How it works

To become a member of Drive Flow with Clutch, people sign up by downloading the Drive Clutch app at www.driveflow.com. Then they will take a picture of their driver’s license and a credit card using the app.

“The app does a quick background check on your driving (history),” Eric Flow said.

Once approved, Drive Flow concierges will call the members to set up their first flip, deliver their vehicle, walk them through their service and help them personalize their app.

“The concierge brings the vehicle to you, transfers all of your stuff from the old vehicle to the new vehicle,” Eric Flow said.

He also said that people don’t pay until they get their first vehicle.

Members can use the app to list the flips they’re most likely to make, from a luxury vehicle for a special occasion to an SUV for a beach trip.

Members pay a monthly fee ranging from $999 to $1,499 depending on the type of vehicle, plus a $250 one-time activation fee.

All of the plans include insurance; roadside assistance, maintenance and upkeep; access to all vehicles in a particular plan with daily upgrade options; and a personal concierge to clean, prep and customize each vehicle. There are no mileage limits.

Members request their next vehicle using the app and can flip cars as often as they would like. Some of the Drive Flow vehicles include luxury sedans, hybrids and plug-ins, SUVs, trucks, off-road vehicles and performance cars.

The partnership

Clutch Technologies’ goal is to bring a subscription service model to the automotive industry, said Clutch’s president, Vince Zappa.

“Today, most consumers buy cars for their highest need,” Zappa said. “They buy the biggest car they think they’re going to need and hope it works for everything they want to do. Our belief is that the car should make your life, not you fit the car, so to speak.”

He called Flow Automotive an innovative dealer-partner.

“It is the only one actively using our service right now,” Zappa said.

He also called Don Flow, the owner of Flow Automotive, an innovative, forward-thinking man who wants to have a deeper relationship with his customers.

“The vision that Don Flow had around bringing a subscription service to his customers here in Winston-Salem was interesting for us because we’ve built a whole software platform around doing that and he’s been thinking about it for years,” Zappa said. “And he needed the technology to make it happen.”

Clutch has had its own consumer base in Atlanta using its service for about 18 months to help build up its software technology.

While Flow Automotive is the first dealership using its technology, Zappa believes Clutch’s platform will be adopted by the industry and he wants to sell it to dealers throughout the country.

“We think people will walk into a dealership and be able to buy as they do today and lease as they do today, but also subscribe,” Zappa said. “We just think it’s a third way for consumers to access cars full time.”

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fdaniel@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7366 @fdanielWSJ

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