How can car brands connect with young drivers when they're buying fewer cars? Toyota's new concept shop in Japan addresses that conundrum: It's part cafe, part car-sharing service, where people can rent vehicles for affordable rates.
The shop is in Nagoya, not far from Toyota's headquarters, and it's also near a university area with foot traffic coming from people in their early 20s. It's designed as a relaxed space for the brand to connect with young consumers who aren't yet in the market to buy a car.
There's a cafe that serves light fare like pastrami sandwiches and lattes. The setting is designed to feel like an outdoor eatery, albeit with lots of sockets for charging devices. The concept shop also rents out camping gear, including coolers and binoculars.
The project, called "Drive to Go by Toyota," was created with help from Inamoto & Co., the innovation company co-founded by former AKQA Global Chief Creative Officer Rei Inamoto. Inamoto & Co. has been working with Toyota on how to future-proof the company, thinking about the brand will engage with consumers when people adopt new driving and transport habits.
"There will always be people who want to own nice cars for a long time, but with car-sharing in different forms becoming very common, whether you drive yourself or get someone else to drive for you, owning a car is not necessarily the only angle," Inamoto says. "Transportation and mobility are the needs a human being has. You need to go from point A to point B."
In Japan, sales of new cars dipped 2% last year to 4.97 million, according to the Nikkei Asian Review. Average car buyers are older than they once were, and Japanese millennials are buying fewer vehicles than older generations did, Inamoto says. "Twenty or 30 years ago, buying a car and owning a car was a status symbol, and that is no longer the case," he adds.
Architecture firm Archicept City and events production company Rights Apartment also worked on the concept shop. The location is not designed as a mere promotional tool--Toyota hopes to make money off it. Inamoto adds that it's possible the company might expand the idea to other locations or markets.
The shop has just five vehicles to rent, all chosen with the needs of young drivers in mind. All of them cost less than $10 to rent for one hour; a mini-van goes for about $125 for a full day. The location also offers test drives of Toyota's futuristic i-ROAD hybrid--a super-slim car that has elements of a motorbike and which isn't even on the market yet. Test drives for that vehicle are free, but they're booked until March.