Toyota ramps up Kinto car share service to take on GoGet and big rental companies

The world’s biggest automaker, Toyota, is gearing up to become a major player in the booming car-share and short-term vehicle rental industry in Australia – and its new car subscription service is just around the corner.

Australians will soon have a broader choice of car share and short-term vehicle rental services – including in regional areas.

Kinto – owned by the world’s largest automaker Toyota – is about to ramp up its local operations after a stalled start due to lockdowns caused by the global pandemic.

The car share and short-term vehicle rental service is about to clock up its first 12 months in Australia.

However, given that it launched during the middle of pandemic, the company is yet to reach its true scale. 

“This is part of Toyota’s global vision to evolve into a mobility company by providing new services that go beyond our traditional business of selling vehicles to private and fleet customers,” Toyota Australia’s head of sales and marketing, Sean Hanley, said at the local launch of Kinto last year

Backed by the biggest automotive dealer network in the country, the Toyota-owned Kinto car share firm has among the broadest selection of vehicles available for short term loans in Australia.

Popular models such as the Toyota Yaris and Toyota Corolla hatchbacks are available alongside Toyota HiLux utes and Toyota Hiace vans. Toyota Camry sedans are also available, as are a number of petrol-electric hybrid vehicles.

In terms of cost, Kinto cars are similar to or slightly dearer than market-leading car share firm GoGet – but up to 50 per cent cheaper than equivalent rental cars from Avis, Hertz, and Thrifty – according to data sourced by Drive as this article was published.

Kinto cars can be rented hourly or daily – or over seven days, 30 days, or 60 days. For now, the cars can only be booked up to 180 days in advance, but the company is looking to expand forward bookings up to 12 months.

Unlike GoGet and other car share services which have convenient on-street parking, for now Kinto cars are primarily accessed via selected Toyota showrooms.

Approximately 45 of Toyota’s 300 showrooms nationally are part of the Kinto program, but more showrooms are being added weekly, the company says.

Depending on the Toyota dealer’s location, Kinto cars can be accessed 24/7 – or only during business hours. Customers are advised of the hours of availability for their preferred location when they book a Kinto car via the smartphone app.

The same smartphone app is used to book, pay for, and unlock Kinto cars – as part of its contactless pick-up and drop-off program.

“This removes the common inconvenience of traditional rental car services, cutting out the queuing, paperwork, expensive insurance excess reduction fees and credit card holding charges,” said Kinto Australia boss Mark Ramsay.

Kinto launched in Japan in 2019 and arrived in Australia in March 2021 – before being rolled out initially in Melbourne in June 2021.

The Kinto program is designed to appeal to people who don’t need to own a car full time, or who want the flexibility of accessing different types of cars at different times of the year.

“An increasing number of people are not able to meet all their needs with one vehicle,” said Mr Ramsay.

Commemorating its first year anniversary, Kinto Australia says approximately 1000 customers have accessed its national fleet of about 160 cars to date.

However, Kinto says it is about to ramp up operations as Australia comes out of lockdown – a move which will provide even more competition in the fast-growing car share industry.

While some car share services charge upfront and/or annual subscription fees – and require customers to top-up the vehicle with fuel after use – Kinto cars come with a fuel card that is included in the cost.

Kinto charges a fixed fee for each vehicle type, as well as an extra cost per-kilometre travelled.

For example, the cost of a Toyota Corolla varies from $10.40 per hour, $72 per day, $338 per week, or $1448 per month.

And the Toyota Corolla distance charges scale from 30 cents per kilometre to 17 cents per kilometre, getting cheaper as the duration of the loan increases.

It appears the kilometre charge is how Kinto recoups the cost of fuel.

In addition to the base rental fee, travelling 500km in a Kinto car would cost an extra $95 at 19 cents per kilometre, an extra $125 at 25 cents per kilometre, or an extra $150 at 30 cents per kilometre.

By comparison, fuelling your own car costs about $80 to cover 500km when fuel is at the high rate of $2 per litre.

Even at Kinto’s cheapest per-kilometre rate, the charge is stacked in Kinto’s favour. 

Customers don’t have the option of paying for fuel themselves, because the charge is based on the vehicle distance travelled.

Nevertheless, Kinto believes its vast range – across different vehicle types – will suit the needs of customers who either don’t want the hassle of owning a car, or want the flexibility of choice.

“We see this as giving the consumer more choice,” said Mr Ramsay. “The way people use and depend on cars is changing and we want to be a part of that. People want flexibility and use different types of vehicles at different times.”

Kinto Australia says being linked to Toyota’s vast dealer network will help the program expand into regional areas, whereas most other car share services are concentrated in capital cities and metropolitan hubs.

“It has been important to focus on regional areas of Australia, where this type of service has not previously been available – nor possible – before,” said Mr Ramsay.

“Rental companies are rarely found in small towns, but as the Toyota dealers are already part of the community and both selling and servicing cars,  this is a natural extension of the offering.”

The Kinto car share service is separate to Toyota’s comprehensive service loan car scheme, and the ‘while you wait’ program – which is tailored to Toyota customers who are waiting for their new vehicle to arrive amid the global stock shortages.

Mr Ramsay says Kinto Australia is also looking at adding a subscription option to its car share service, which will enable customers to choose from a range of vehicles for a flat pay-as-you-go fee.

The car share industry in Australia has up to a dozen key players, and the number of customers who rent vehicles short term has grown over the past decade.

Car companies are increasingly considering adding subscription services or short-term rental programs to their range of offerings as cities become more congested, parking comes at a premium, and as car ownership becomes more expensive.

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