AMSTERDAM -- Toyota has launched a new mobility brand in Europe named Kinto as a "defensive" move against the rise of leasing companies and also to prepare for the arrival of robotaxis.
Kinto bundles together services Toyota already operates or has tested in Europe into four categories: leasing, short-term rentals, car pooling and subscription services.
Kinto One renames Toyota's fleet leasing operations and looks to expand the company's full servicing lease package, which it currently offers in Spain, France, Italy and the UK.
"That's the primary focus to start with and then very quickly we will build the other services," Toyota Europe's head of sales and marketing, Matt Harrison, told Automotive News Europe.
Toyota is reacting to the growth of leasing as a way of financing new cars in Europe. The method is becoming more popular at the expense of traditional hire purchase as leasing firms begin to move away from their traditional corporate clients to target private customers.
As part of its expansion, Toyota bought the UK leasing arm of Inchcape for 100 million pounds (117 million euros) in October 2019.
"What that means for us is that we are losing control of the relationship with the customer," Harrison said. "Once the leasing companies get the customer, frankly we're just a supplier. Kinto is partly defensive."
Once Toyota controls the leasing it can begin to offer more services, including those bundled into the Kinto brand.
"We can activate a lot more additional revenue streams than we can do today," Harrison said, citing the ability to offer tailored servicing or insurance.
Toyota has invested a "substantial amount" in Kinto, Toyota's head of mobility, Tom Fux, said at the launch of the service in Amsterdam on Jan. 15. He did not disclose the investment.
"We believe that in the future a significant proportion of future revenue will be delivered by mobility services," Fux said. "It won't replace our core business but will be an add-on."
Leasing will give Toyota crucial experience for when autonomous technology makes self-driving cars viable.
"We need to know how to manage fleets, so when we have robotaxis we have the in-house ability to manage those fleets," said Fux, who heads Toyota Fleet Mobility, along with his role as vice president for mobility.
Toyota will deploy its E-Palette autonomous shuttle for limited journeys at this summer's Olympic games in Tokyo.
Toyota Europe CEO Johan van Zyl said leasing requires a big financial commitment. Cars that are leased are not sold, "so you need to finance those costs until you have recovered your money, so you need a very strong balance sheet in the future to be able to cover this," he told Automotive News Europe in an interview in November last year. "The cash-to-cash cycle is just getting longer and longer."
Toyota expects that its Kinto services will eventually be offered within a single app, allowing customers to choose different modes of transport or take advantage of offers.
Toyota is already trialing short-term rentals under its Yuko brand in Dublin, Venice, Copenhagen and Madrid. It will be renamed Kinto Share.
The company is also trialing subscription sales, which is a more comprehensive form of full-service leasing that allows customers to lease cars over more flexible time periods, and car pooling. Car pooling will now fall under Kinto Join and subscriptions come under Kinto Flex.
Toyota said it was also evaluating whether to offer ride-hailing services.
The Kinto name is also used by Toyota in Japan, where the company last year began offering car leasing via Kinto One and a more premium offering call Kinto Select, which allows customers to drive six Lexus vehicles over a three-year period.
The Kinto name is derived from the Japanese word Kintoun or Flying nimbus, a cloud which provides on-demand transportation for a famous animated character in Japan.