just-auto.com

Unexpected car sharing trend emerges in Japan

By Graeme Roberts | 11 July 2019

Rent a car but not drive it - an unexpected car sharing trend has emerged in Japan

Rent a car but not drive it - an unexpected car sharing trend has emerged in Japan

A new trend reportedly has emerged in car sharing in Japan.

People are renting cars but not driving them, The Verge reported, citing The Asahi Shimbun.

Some customers see a car as not a mode of travel but an indoor space in a world where indoor spaces are increasingly privatised and inaccessible to many people, Japanese car-sharing service Orix discovered recently after learning many customers were renting cars but not driving them.

As reported by The Asahi Shimbun, the company reviewed mileage records and learned a certain number of its vehicles were being returned after having "travelled no distance". Times24 Co, an automobile-sharing service provider with 1.2m registered users, reported the same.

Both companies conducted customer surveys.

According to Asahi Shimbun, one respondent said vehicles were rented to nap in or use as a workspace. Another person stored bags and other personal belongings in the rental car when nearby coin lockers were full.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, rental cars were also used to recharge mobile (cell) phones.

"I rented a car to eat a boxed meal that I bought at a convenience store because I couldn't find anywhere else to have lunch," a 31 year old male company employee, who lives in Saitama Prefecture, close to Tokyo was quoted as saying.

"Usually the only place I can take a nap while visiting my clients is a cybercafe in front of the station but renting a car to sleep in is just a few hundred yen, almost the same as staying in the cybercafe."

Other uses the surveys uncovered: talk on the phone, watch TV, dress up for halloween and practise rapping.

The reports noted car-sharing is widely popular in Japan, despite still gathering momentum in the US. The cars are accessible, easy to locate and customers can reserve them by smartphone for a few hours or a whole day. Thirty minutes' use costs only around JPY400 (less than US$4) and a car can be picked up at one of the firm's 12,000 parking places across Japan.

Most cars spend something like 90% of their existence parked, waiting to be driven, the reports noted.

Uber, Lyft, and the ride-hailing industry were supposed to fix this problem but those companies ended up adding more cars to roads, not fewer as expected.