Toyota’s new car subscription company Kinto is gamifying driving behavior

Toyota has officially launched Kinto, a company first revealed late last year that will manage a car subscription program and other mobility services in Japan, including the sale and purchase of used vehicles as well as automotive repair and inspection.

Kinto is jointly funded by Toyota Financial Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota, and Sumitomo Mitsui Auto Service Company, a member of the Sumitomo Corporation Group. Initial funding for Kinto is 1.8 billion yen, or about $16 million, according to Toyota.

The creation of Kinto marks a shift that began a couple of years ago within the automotive industry to look beyond the traditional business of producing, financing and selling cars and trucks. Other automakers have experimented with car subscription services with mixed success. Volvo’s Care by Volvo has been a standout success. While Cadillac shut its service “Book by Cadillac” down, although it has plans for a reboot.

Unlike other subscription programs, Kinto has gamified the service. The company is planning to introduce a service this fall that will award points to customers based on how they drive. Toyota doesn’t explain how safe or “ecological” driving would be tracked, but the assumption is that the vehicles would be equipped with connected-car technology that can monitor driving. Points can be applied toward payments, the company said.

“As society shifts from conventional car ownership to car usage that can be enjoyed wherever and as much as users would like, there is a growing need for a service that allows customers to freely select the car that they like or want to drive and enjoy it as they like, instead of using a car simply as a means of transportation,” Toyota said in its announcement.

Toyota’s Kinto will offer two subscription services in Japan. (The service isn’t headed for Europe or the U.S.) Kinto One will allow customers to drive one Toyota-brand vehicle over a three-year period. The service will offer access to the Prius, Corolla Sport, Alphard, Vellfire, and Crown models. The line-up will expand by fall 2019. Customers who go for Kinto One will pay between 46,100 yen ($419) and 99,000 yen ($901) a month before taxes, depending on the vehicle brand.

“Kinto Select” will give customers access to six models of Lexus -brand vehicles over a three-year period. The Kinto Select service costs 180,000 yen, or $1,638, a month.

Both services will be offered as a monthly fixed-sum service that packages voluntary insurance payments, vehicle tax, registration charges, and regularly scheduled maintenance of the vehicle.

Kinto will launch with the higher-end plan, beginning Wednesday. The Kinto One plan will be added as an option on March 1. Both services will be deployed on a trial basis through select Toyota dealers and Lexus dealers in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Kinto plans to rollout the services to the rest of Japan this summer.