Car-sharing services forced to hike fees but offering extras to customers

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Electric mini-vehicle Sakura, which Nissan Motor Corp. has added to its car-sharing service, is seen in Sumida Ward, Tokyo.

As gas and vehicle prices soar, car-sharing service providers are being forced to raise their fees.

The companies are trying to retain customers by offering enhanced services even as they increase fees.

Nissan e-share mobi, a car-sharing service provided by Nissan Motor Co., raised the usage fee for some models by ¥50-¥100 to ¥250-¥300 per 15 minutes in August. It also raised the usage fee for extended periods by ¥200-¥1,100.

However, the company maintained the pricing for high mileage because it wants users to feel comfortable using the service for long distances.

Car-sharing companies have been raising their fees since this spring.

In April, Mitsui Fudosan Realty Co. raised the fee for Careco Car Sharing Club by ¥10-¥20 per 10 minutes. In June, Orix Auto Corp. also raised its mileage rate from ¥16 per 1 kilometer to ¥18 when driving more than six hours.

“As overall operating expenses, including vehicle and fuel costs, have risen, it has become extremely difficult to absorb these costs by only enhancing efficiency,” a spokesperson for Careco said.

Car sharing is popular among young people in particular because it is easy to book a car with a smartphone, and gas is included in the fee. According to the Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation, car-sharing services in Japan had about 2.63 million registered members as of the end of March, a roughly 15-fold increase from 10 years ago.

Enhanced services

Although they are raising their fees, car-sharing companies are also trying to enhance their services.

Nissan has introduced its new electric mini-vehicle model Sakura to its car-sharing service to allow users to try the latest model at the lowest fee. It will also leave the usage fee of the Leaf model, also an electric vehicle, unchanged until March next year.

Careco added new models including a plug-in hybrid vehicle, and also entered the Hokkaido market in July. In collaboration with Rakuten Group, Inc., Orix created a fee plan exclusively for Rakuten members.

Park24 Co., which operates the nation’s largest car-sharing service, Times Car, will keep its rates unchanged. “Current gas prices are within an acceptable range. We have no plan to raise our fees at this point,” a company official said.

Some major automakers are transferring the higher costs of raw materials and transportation to vehicle prices.

On the domestic front, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Subaru Corp. have begun raising car prices without changing any specifications. The prices of imported cars have also risen. An inadequate supply of new cars has pushed up the prices of used cars. The business environment for car sharing has become more challenging.