Car sharing is gaining traction in Japan

Car sharing is poised to pick up more customers in Japan as leading providers improve convenience and bring the service to more cities and towns.

Japan’s No. 2 player in the field, leasing giant Orix, will launch a website Thursday where corporate customers can apply for membership. The site, operated by unit Orix Auto, will offer a simplified sign-up process, such as by accepting smartphone pictures of driver’s licenses. The whole process will take less than 10 minutes, with membership cards issued in about two weeks. No other company offers a fully online application, according to Orix.

Orix’s car-sharing business has about 160,000 members. Individual consumers use the service mainly on weekends and holidays. To raise operating rates, adding corporate customers is key, as they account for about half of all members and often use the service on weekdays.

The industry’s third-largest player, the Mitsui Fudosan group’s Car Sharing Japan, will expand its coverage area to greater Osaka in mid-January, from just greater Tokyo now. Targeting a fleet of 700 vehicles in the region by March 2019, the company will start from a location in western Osaka, and then expand to other parts of Osaka Prefecture. Kyoto and the Hyogo Prefecture city of Kobe are also expected to get service. A total of 42 sites, mainly timed parking lots of parent Mitsui Fudosan Realty, are being planned.

Car Sharing envisions 70 vehicles in service by early February and 100 up and running by the end of April. Office areas near the centrally located Umeda and Shin-Osaka stations are expected to enjoy robust demand even on weekdays. The goal is 20,000 members in greater Osaka.

Car Sharing now has a fleet of 1,560 units, mainly in greater Tokyo. By expanding its service area, the company seeks a broader customer base.

Industry leader Park24 experimented with using public streets as pick-up sites last year.

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