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Autonomy was founded to liberate drivers from long-term debt through electric car subscriptions.

Scott painter standing in front of a Tesla model 3

May 24, 2022

Autonomy Founded to Liberate Drivers From Long-Term Debt Through Electric Car Subscriptions

Americans owe $1.46 trillion in auto loan debt, accounting for 9.4% of the country’s overall consumer debt. 

But why should you have to go into long-term debt to get behind the wheel?

That was the question Autonomy’s co-founders, Scott Painter and Georg Bauer, asked after decades spent reshaping the automotive industry. Bauer is known as one of the chief architects of modern automobile leasing. 

With Painter, Bauer set out to disrupt the very consumer model he helped create in order to provide consumers an easy way to access vehicles on demand and to liberate them from the long-term debt and logistical hassles that typically come with a set of wheels. These industry leaders who had spent their entire careers in auto, one of whom is sometimes called the “godfather of modern leasing”, joined forces to provide subscriptions to EVs.

Two longtime auto industry leaders coming together

In 1998, Painter founded CarsDirect.com, the first company to sell vehicles online directly to consumers. Seven years later, he became the founder and CEO of TrueCar, a website that unlocked unprecedented transparency into car pricing information.

While Painter is a serial entrepreneur, he has stayed true to one mission: greater fairness, transparency, and convenience for automotive customers.

“Scott’s the maverick tech disruptor, always trying to figure out how to make the crazy automotive retail experience a better one,” says Autonomy CMO Lucas Donat. “Scott is a dyed-in-the-wool car enthusiast.”

Meanwhile, Bauer has spent four decades working in global auto financial services. In the 1980s, he built out Mercedes-Benz’s leasing operation in the U.S. market. He went on to hold an executive position there, then at BMW, and later at Tesla, where he built the company’s financial services in Europe and Asia. 

With Painter’s entrepreneurial edge and Bauer’s financial and operational experience, the two came together in 2016 to found Fair, a used-vehicle subscription company that allowed drivers to lease cars from auto dealers without signing long-term contracts. 

“Georg gives balance to Scott’s maverick nature,” Donat says.

Fair was the first direct-to-consumer used-vehicle subscription platform. Autonomy represents the next stage of the automotive industry’s evolution, offering freedom from not only onerous long-term commitments and long-term debt but also fossil fuels.

Delivering autonomy from debt and fossil fuels.

In founding Autonomy, Painter and Bauer united behind a common goal: liberating consumers from the traditional debt system and providing electric car subscriptions as an alternative to traditional leases and ownership. The service is built for those who prioritize access to cars over owning them, those who want to get where they’re going without excessive paperwork, long-term debt, or fossil fuels. 

Autonomy was created specifically with millennials and Gen Z in mind. It takes as its guiding principles the younger generations’ concern for sustainability, their preference for subscriptions and experiences over ownership, and their need to transcend long-term debt.

Autonomy can kick-start the process in just 10 minutes via a smartphone app, have a Tesla Model 3 delivered to them, and get them behind the wheel sooner than if they’d leased from Tesla. Autonomy will also take care of the burdens of car maintenance, including tire rotations and replacements, cabin air filter replacements, and component checkups. Each Tesla car subscription includes roadside assistance and up to 12,000 miles a year. In addition to a flexible starting fee, users pay month to month after an initial 3-month term, so there’s no need to sign onto a long-term contract. Subscribing can be as simple as completing an application on your phone and providing your credit card and driver’s license. 

Furthermore, with its fleet of electric vehicles, Autonomy offers a method of transportation that can be less impactful on your wallet and on the planet. Between savings on fuel and savings on maintenance, users of electric cars can expect to pay half of what their vehicles’ gas-powered counterparts pay. And they can feel good about not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution while driving.

“We want to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles,” Donat says. 

In recent months, though, these EVs have become difficult to acquire due to their success: High gas prices and incentives such as the $7,500 federal tax credit have sparked demand for Teslas, Chevy Bolts, and other EVs, creating long wait times if you’re looking to buy. Autonomy offers the cheapest and fastest way to get your hands on one of these coveted vehicles.

Autonomy is starting out by offering electric car subscriptions to just one car: the Tesla Model 3. Eventually, Autonomy hopes to give users access to other cars, including the Bolt. 

“The big idea of a car subscription is that you have the freedom to choose how you get around,” Donat explains. “You’re not saddled with long-term debt or tied to a particular car or payment system. You don’t have to be owned by the machine to drive one.”

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Baylor Knobloch

Baylor is an experienced storyteller working as a writer and editor for Sharp Pen with a background in journalism and media production. When not crafting tech communications, she writes and edits for online publications In The Know and Humor Darling. Baylor earned her BA at Brown University.