Toyota Announces 'Beloved' New Subscription Service, Annoyingly Claims Transformation Into 'Mobility Company'

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
toyota announces 8216 beloved new subscription service annoyingly claims

Cadillac recently made the choice to suspend its vehicle subscription service, claiming the operation hit some costly roadblocks. That’s been our beef with most subscription programs as well, only on the consumer side of the coin. Customers typically end up paying significantly more for access to a fleet of vehicles that, individually, would have been much cheaper to simply buy or lease. Still, the intended draw isn’t saving money, it’s convenience — most subscription services allow customers to swap between select models on the fly, baking in both insurance and maintenance fees.

While these subscription services have been limited to premium nameplates thus far, Toyota wants to try its hand and see how things play out for a mainstream manufacturer.

On the surface, this seems like a sound strategy — Toyota boats a far more varied lineup than brands like Cadillac, BMW, Porsche, and Volvo. Imagine a scenario where you’re motoring around in an 86 and feel the need to move some lumber. Just deep-six the 86 for a Tundra pickup. Maybe the next few months involve taking the kids to soccer practice, necessitating something like a Sienna minivan. In theory, Toyota’s new “Kinto” program would allow you to do that.

Named after the magical flying nimbus cloud that appears in a popular anime franchise (and presumably has some significance within the broader Japanese culture), Kinto (kintoun 筋斗雲) is said to function in much the same way by appearing “when necessary and enables mobility as per the user’s wishes.”

If the Japanese flare hasn’t already tipped you off, this pilot program is launching in Toyota’s home country — specifically in and around the Tokyo area. However, the automaker has plans to expand the service if the initial foray turns out to be successful.

“Cars have been loved by people for over 100 years since they were first developed for many reasons in addition to their convenience,” explained Toyota boss Akio Toyoda. “Indeed, I believe that it is because they offer many joys to people, including the joy of ownership, the joy of driving, and the joy of mobility. As society shifts from owning cars to using cars, the Kinto beloved car subscription service is a new proposal to enable customers to more freely enjoy cars. The service makes it easy to start life with a car as soon as the customer feels that they want one. Moreover, if the customer wants to try another car, they can change cars, and if they no longer need the car, they can return it.”

In addition to saying it’s striving to transform itself into a “mobility company that offers a range of services related to mobility in light of the mobility society of the future,” Toyota also repeatedly referred to Kinto as a “beloved car subscription service.”

The oddly Japanese phrasing is not without purpose. Toyota claims it’s working on a way to reward drivers who “carefully use the car as if it were their own beloved vehicle.” The details on that are yet to be finalized, though the company says it would issue points for safe or ecological driving utilizing connected technology and regular visits to dealership. While an interesting idea, it also sets a rather creepy precedent for corporatized monitoring that we hope never extends to purchasable automobiles.

The program is said to launch at the start of 2019.

[Image: Toyota]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Nov 05, 2018

    The first mobility company was Olds Mobile. And how that experiment ended? Not very well. On the other hand there is already car subscription service Fair, why I need Toyota? The idea of Toyota was reliability for long term ownership. If you subscribe you can choose much better and more exciting vehicle than Toyota.

    • Stuki Stuki on Nov 06, 2018

      But they weren't in the Japan of today. Where "Olds", and at least trying to stay "Mobile," are both more pressing concerns than in the US in the 90s....

  • IBx1 IBx1 on Nov 06, 2018

    Hasn't Toyota been a "mobility company" since they cancelled the Supra, Celica, and refused to sell a GT86 that could outrun a prius? Now they slap gaping maws on every 1.8L 4-banger they sell and call that "sporty." Toyota has always been the appliance company, with a few very welcome exceptions.

    • Geozinger Geozinger on Nov 06, 2018

      Don't forget the Nightshade Editions! Blacked out rims! Sporty! As an aside, doesn't anyone at Toyota have any knowledge about plants and herbs? Nightshade is poisonous to humans. It would be like Ford naming their next SUV "Cyanide" or "Hemlock"...

  • IH_Fever EV charger on a GM lot, probably with a Cummins generator to keep them running. A regular melting pot haha
  • Tassos Wake me up when VW (or any other loser "Legacy" automaker comes up with a "BETTER TESLA" BEV AT THE SAME PRICE. SO far, VW has FAILED MISERABLY AND LOST BILLIONS DOING IT. Its models are way underwhelming and inferior, and cost not much less than the model 3. ANd DESPITE the SCANDALOUS $7,500 tax credit, which is an INVERSE ROBIN HOOD, takes from the average household and gives it to the average BEV buying family, which has an income of $170k+, VW STILL FAILED.ALso notice the so-called "Mobility Officers" at FORD AND Renault QUIT. another HUGE SCAM, Autonomous Vehicles, they wasted 100s of billions (all idiot legacy makers together) and predicted billions of profits, but so far they DROWN IN A SEA OF RED INK with NOTHING to show for it. Morons will be morons, and the ones in this forum will cheer for their failures "AWESOME, WV, Indeed"! LOL!!!
  • Jwee More range and faster charging cannot be good news for the heavily indebted and distracted Musk.Tesla China is discounting their cars. Apart from the Model 3, no one is much buying Tesla's here in Europe. Other groups have already passed Tesla in Europe, where it was once dominant.Among manufacturers, 2021 EV sales:VW Group 25%, Stellantis at 14.5%,Tesla at 13.9%Hyundai-Kia at 11.2% Renault Group at 10.3%. Just 2 years ago, Tesla had a commanding 31.1% share of the European EV marketOuch., changed their data, so this is slightly different than last time I posted this, but same idea.
  • Varezhka Given how long the Mitsubishi USA has been in red, that's a hard one. I mean, this company has been losing money in all regions *except* SE Asia and Oceania ever since they lost the commercial division to Daimler.I think the only reason we still have the brand is A) Mitsubishi conglomerate's pride won't allow it B) US still a source of large volume for the company, even if they lose money on each one and C) it cost too much money to pull out and no one wants to take responsibility. If I was the head of Mitsubishi's North American operation and retreat was not an option, I think my best bet would be to reduce overhead by replacing all the cars with rebadged Nissans built in Tennessee and Mexico.As much as I'd like to see the return of Triton, Pajero Sport (Montero Sport to you and me), and Delica I'm sure that's more nostalgia and grass is greener thing than anything else.
  • Varezhka If there's one (small) downside to the dealer not being allowed to sell above MSRP, it's that now we get a lot of people signing up for the car with zero intention of keeping the car they bought. We end up with a lot of "lightly used" examples on sale for a huge mark-up, including those self-purchased by the dealerships themselves. I'm sure this is what we'll end up seeing with GR Corolla in Japan as well.This is also why the Land Cruiser has a 4 year waitlist in Japan (36K USD starting MSRP -> buy and immediately flip for 10, 20K more -> profit) I'm not sure if there's a good solution for this apart from setting the MSRP higher to match what the market allows, though this lottery system is probably as close as we can get.