And it has an awesome Japanese name.
Many automakers are starting to see the benefits of offering a subscription service. Customers want flexibility with limited commitment, which is exactly what these new subscription services offer. Very simply, subscribers pay to access either a single car or a swappable fleet from an automakers lineup for a monthly fee that, in most cases, includes insurance and maintenance.
The biggest problem so far has been a lack of availability and high cost. For example, Porsche only offers its Passport in Atlanta and BMW's cheapest subscription tiers costs over $1,000 per month. What we need is a subscription service from an affordable, reliable automaker. Well, it looks like one is on the way.
Toyota has announced its subscription serviced called Kinto, which will be deployed in 2019. Kinto, which means flying nimbus cloud in Japanese, will allow subscribers to freely select what type of car they'd like to drive. No details were given about how often subscribers will be able to change their cars but Toyota did mention a reward system for well-behaved subscribers.
Toyota says it will "reward customers who carefully use the car as if it were their own beloved vehicle. Under this program, points will be awarded for safe or ecological driving utilizing connected technology and regular visits to dealers."
We don't know if Toyota will also punish those who don't treat their cars with care but this rewards system does seem like a good way to encourage good behavior with the borrowed cars.
It seems as though some of the details still need to be ironed out. Toyota explained that "we are currently considering details such as operation methods and forms for the new service, and it is planned that such a program will initially be run on a trial basis in the Tokyo area." So if Kinto sounds like a good fit for you, you're out of luck unless you live in the Tokyo area.
Perhaps Toyota will eventually expand the service, though we doubt it will happen in the immediate future. Toyota seems like a perfect candidate for a subscription service thanks to its extensive model lineup. You could have a Highlander to haul the kids to school, switch to an 86 for the weekend, change into a Prius for a long business trip, then opt for a 4Runner to have some off-road fun. Too bad we'll have to wait for Toyota to offer Kinto outside of Japan.