By on November 5, 2018

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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12 Comments on “Toyota Announces ‘Beloved’ New Subscription Service, Annoyingly Claims Transformation Into ‘Mobility Company’...”


  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Genius! Amazing! OMG! OMG! Fantastical and magical! Just wow, wow, wow!

    kinto kaku no

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    “As society shifts from owning cars to using cars”

    What data is used to make this statement?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “What data is used to make this statement?”

      Uber’s market cap.

      Car companies don’t want to be blindsided by fundamental changes in the economy (like how Sears was made obsolete by Walmart and Amazon). Saying $#!t about “mobility” as a concept is how they convince investors that they’ll keep up with the times.

      The excitement around Uber also shows car companies that the car business could fundamentally change, and they could find themselves undermined like companies profiled in “The Innovator’s Dilemma” whic went out of business by competently serving the needs of their most profitable customers while a simpler/cheaper/less-capable product stole away the vast majority of their customers. Again, saying $#!t about “mobility” and showing the occasional e-bike concept shows their MBA investors that the company understands this and has a plan.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Next step: building a lineup of cars people will want to change and try.

    Interestingly enough, I’d say Honda would be in a better position to do this. Various versions of the Accord, Civic, and the Insight and CR-V definitely pique my interests way more than their Toyota equivalents.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      This isn’t directly relevant, but I kept getting ads for the new Corolla hatch in my social media feed, and not a single one of them *showed the exterior of the car*. All closeups of dashboards and seats. You know things are rough when your marketing department is hiding the evidence.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    May be this is good thing. There will be plenty of cheap toyotas no one wants to buy used. Even leased cars get abused, imagine semi-rentals. On another side, one-owner, private seller cars will go up in value.

  • avatar
    Fred

    If I ever got a mobility subscription, I’d like to have a choice across makes and models. I’d switch every month and if I was going on a road trip, maybe I’d get a mobile home for a couple of weeks. Otherwise I’ll just keep what I got, it’s paid for, insurance isn’t that much and doesn’t cost me much to maintain.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      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”…


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