Toyota is aiming to simplify the process of car sharing for young drivers in Japan with a concept store that combines the service with a casual café.
‘Drive to Go by Toyota’ is located near Toyota’s headquarters in Nagoya and is billed as a hybrid venue that allows people to rent cars as easily as they buy coffee or sandwiches.
Branded cafés have become a popular way for carmakers to engage potential customers, but they are typically connected to showrooms with the aim of encouraging purchase. In this case, customers are invited to spend time at Toyota’s café before renting a car, or even camping equipment. Costs range from 1,000 yen (US$8.82) to rent a vehicle of any size to 14,300 yen (US$126) to rent a minivan for the day.
The project was led by Inamoto & Co, a New York-based consultancy founded by former AKQA creative head Rei Inamoto, in conjunction with Archicept City, an architectural firm, and Rights Apartment, an events production company. Rights Apartment jointly manages the café space with Transit, a hospitality group that also manages restaurants such as Bill's in Japan.
It’s a recognition of a challenge facing all carmakers: that young people are increasingly less inclined to buy their own vehicles. Car ownership in Japan is at its lowest level in almost 20 years, according to the Automobile Inspection & Registration Information Association. Toyota is reportedly considering slashing the number of car models it offers in Japan to around 30 by 2025.
“Owning a car is not the status symbol it used to be,” said Inamoto in a statement. “So why create a traditional car showroom when audience purchase habits have changed so much?”
He said the move is “part of Toyota’s push to be the most human-centric car brand in the world”.
Last year, Toyota entered into a global partnership with Uber to support and benefit from the growth of ride sharing.
Campaign’s view: Four years ago, Toyota president Akio Toyoda expressed puzzlement at the values of the younger generation, noting that in his day it would have been embarrassing for a man to ask a woman on a date if he didn’t own a car. This signals that his company has come to terms with that change.
It’s always great to see a company moving with consumers and offering genuine utility, and being part of Japan’s growing car-sharing industry makes a lot more sense than fighting it. One challenge Toyota will continue to face, however, is that the number of people who have driving licences is also falling. Even if it doesn’t need to sell people its products, it will need to find a way to ignite a yearning for the open road among potential drivers. Creating this sort of environment seems a good place to start.