We subscribe to meals, clothes, and TV shows. What about cars?

February 20, 2020, 1:43 PM UTC

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Good morning, Data Sheet readers. This is Aric Jenkins, filling in for Adam.

What’s your most expensive monthly bill, outside of rent or a mortgage?

Residents of the 25 largest U.S. metros paid an average of $376 a month for car loans—the highest recurring expense, CNBC reported last year. Insurance was the second most expensive at $238 per month. Then, of course, you have to add in the costs of occasional maintenance or repair. 

What if all those expenses were taken care of for a monthly subscription of $699? And instead of using one car that you own or lease, you can drive an interchangeable roster of vehicles, with unlimited swap-outs on a daily basis.

That’s the latest pitch from Nissan, which joins a host of car companies experimenting with a Netflix-style subscription service. In addition to insurance and maintenance, the monthly price includes cleaning and roadside assistance. A dealership concierge member would deliver your cars to you within the service area, which for now is limited to Houston, Texas.

“This is a great opportunity for people to drive what they want when they need it for one, predictable payment,” Central Houston Nissan general manager Chad Milow said in a statement.

But while the payment model may be convenient for customers, car dealers are predictably peeved with the strategy, claiming direct subscription services unfairly cut them out of potential sales.

Industry infighting aside, questions still arise over consumers’ willingness to pay such a steep fee each month. Unlike other subscription services, subscribing to cars is not cheap—even with the added perks of insurance and repairs. And while research shows that millennials, the target demographic, actually drive more than commonly thought, they still favor urban centers where ride-hailing and bike lanes are prevalent.

Personally, I have no intention of swapping out my New York City MetroCard for a car subscription any time soon. The subway might be unreliable and occasionally unpleasant, but a $127 monthly pass is still a hell of a lot cheaper than 700 bucks.

Aric Jenkins

Twitter: @aricwithan_a

Email: aric.jenkins@fortune.com

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Keep your fingers out of the jam. European regulators intend to enact rules restricting artificial intelligence and data sharing that will apply to American and Chinese tech companies. The European Commission said it will share draft legislation later this year that could limit the use of facial recognition and other machine learning applications.

No more secrets. A bit earlier than usual, Google released a preview of its next version of Android. The 11th generation mobile OS includes more features for folding phones, 5G, and spam-call screening, plus finer location privacy controls. This release was aimed at software developers and won't be ready for consumers for some months. And Apple's next iPhone software may let users set non-Apple apps as their defaults for basic functions like email and web browsing, Bloomberg reports.

That's a very respectable neighborhood. A long-running tax dispute between the Internal Revenue Service and Facebook went to court this week. The IRS is seeking to prove that Facebook understated the value of intellectual property sold to its Irish subsidiary in 2010. The government says the company owes $9 billion in back taxes.

Dissed. There were a few software-related jabs at last night's Democratic candidates debate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren attacked Pete Buttigieg's healthcare plan with the line: “It’s not a plan, it’s a PowerPoint.” The former mayor of South Bend shot back: “I’m more of a Microsoft Word guy.” Later, other former mayor Mike Bloomberg explained that his taxes were complicated: "The number of pages will probably be thousands of pages. I can’t go to TurboTax.”

Cats and dogs sleeping together. One of the oldest and most storied Wall Street banks, Morgan Stanley, will pay $13 billion to acquire one of the scrappiest upstart brokerage firms, E*Trade. It's a big move online and down market.


Computer scientist Larry Tessler, who died this week, is known for inventing the way computer systems cut, copy, and paste text. He came up with the feature while working at the Xerox PARC, where he also led a tour in 1979 for one Steve Jobs. Shortly thereafter, Tessler went to work for Jobs, as he explained to reporter Luke Dormehl.

“It’s funny because Apple was really the trigger for me wanting to leave Xerox, but I’d never seriously considered it as a career option,” he told me. “Even though I had been pretty impressed by the people who attended the PARC demo, I still thought of them as primarily being a hobbyist computer company. It wasn’t like I was against going to work for them, but I also didn’t come out of the demo thinking, ‘I’ve got to go and work for Apple.’”


Banco Santander hired Trish Burgess as its new global head of peer-to-peer payments. Burgess comes from Apple where she helped launch Apple Pay and the Apple Card...Speaking of Apple, the iPhone maker hired Jeff Bronikowski of Warner Music Group as global head of strategic music initiatives...SpaceX hired NASA's former chief of human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, to assist with its upcoming human spaceflights...Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's VC firm, Initialized Capital, hired Reddit's former head of HR, Katelin Holloway, as a partner....Shutterstock CEO and founder Jon Oringer will bump up to executive chairman on April 1 so COO Stan Pavlovsky can take over.


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New York Times reporter Emily Flitter, who I worked with back in our Reuters days, recently had quite the thrilling urban pet escape experience. Flitter put her prodigious writing talents to work telling the tale of "The Day Frankie Flew Away." Spoiler alert: There's a happy ending.

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman

Email: aaron.pressman@fortune.com

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