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For car sharing service customers, a rental is a home away from home

  • July 25, 2019
  • , Asahi
  • Trending@Japan

Car sharing services in Japan have grown exponentially since their humble beginnings in 1999 as a project by an auxiliary organization of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to promote the sharing of environmentally friendly electric vehicles. It reportedly took five years for the organization to recruit 1,000 members for the scheme. According to statistics compiled by the Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation, after ORIX Auto Corp. started the first car sharing business in 2002, there are now 29 companies operating 17,245 car sharing stations nationwide, with 34,984 vehicles and 1,626,618 users registered as of March 2019.

 

However, Asahi (7/4) reported that a growing number of people using car sharing services are not renting the vehicles for the purpose of driving them. The report said that ORIX discovered around the summer of 2018 that some people who rented the vehicles logged no or unusually low mileage. Times24 Co., the leading car sharing service provider with more than 1.2 million registered users, also discovered that some people are using the cars for unexpected purposes.

 

One respondent to a Times24 survey said he used the car as a place to work or nap and another as a place to store bags and other personal belongings when nearby coin lockers were full. In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, rental cars were reportedly used to charge cellphones. Some people have even used them as a space for private conversations, a quiet place to calm down after arguing with their spouses, or a place to take a baby that won’t stop crying at night.

 

A survey of 400 men and 400 women with driver’s licenses in the Tokyo metropolitan area conducted in 2017 by major cellphone provider NTT Docomo, which operates a service called dcar share, showed that two out of five respondents said they would like to use rental cars for purposes other than driving and one out of eight had actually done so.

 

 

This survey revealed the wide range of possible uses for car sharing services. The respondents were asked what purposes, other than driving, they would like to use rental cars for and how they had actually used rentals in the past. The results were as follows:

 

 

Another interesting finding from this survey is that people who use car sharing services tend to have a higher level of satisfaction with their leisure time.

 

 

Such ingenious use of car sharing services is made possible by the fact that compared with regular car rental services, the vehicles can be rented instantly from nearby locations for as little as 200 yen (less than $2) for 15 minutes using a smartphone app. Although users are required to pay registration and monthly fees, car sharing is generally inexpensive and very versatile.

 

In addition, most car sharing services offer discounted package deals for longer periods of time, such as 6 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 36 hours, which enable people to use the vehicles as low-cost accommodations for overnight stays or short trips.

 

However, users who log little or no mileage are bad business for car sharing operators since customers are also billed for mileage. Another problem is that some users stay in the cars with the engine running to beat the heat in summer or stay warm during winter, but that could have a negative impact on the environment. According to an ORIX public relations official, car sharing operators prefer their customers to drive the cars they rent. (Asahi 7/4)

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