Car Industry

Toyota Drive to Go aims to make renting hip for the kids

Stop in, rent a car for the weekend and grab a cup of Joe (or tea) before you depart.

Toyota

Renting a car isn't often referred to as a fun endeavor, but Toyota hopes to change that with its new Drive to Go service.

Drive to Go is a new scheme that hopes to appeal to young drivers in Japan who don't want to subscribe to traditional car ownership. Located in Nagoya, near Toyota's headquarters, the half-café, half-rental-kiosk offers folks the opportunity to rent a car for the weekend while pounding some caffeine.

Just don't drive the cars into the café. That's not advised.

Toyota

Vehicle rental costs range from ¥1,000 (roughly $9) per hour for a vehicle of any size, to ¥14,300 (roughly $125) for a full-day rental of a minivan-sized vehicle. The shop will also offer camping equipment rentals, in case the driver in question wants to head to the forest for a weekend getaway.

"Owning a car is not the status symbol it once used to be," said Rei Inamoto, founder of Inamoto & Co., Toyota's partner in this project. "Nowadays, access is more important than ownership -- especially when it comes to automobiles. So why create a traditional car showroom when the audience purchase habit has changed so much?"

That statement might have sounded weird five years ago, but given the physical crunch in urban environments, more and more drivers are looking to sharing-based models to remove some of the more frustating parts of ownership. Volvo has a rental-type scheme in place for its new XC40 SUV, and both Cadillac and Porsche are working on subscription models, as well.

That's to say nothing for the multitude of ride-hailing and car-sharing operations, whether it's Uber (which isn't tied to any specific automaker) or BMW's ReachNow (which is).

Drive to Go's first space is positively gorgeous, with lots of natural wood and white light. The design came from the Archicept City firm in Tokyo, and Transit, a famous restaurant management group, will run the café side of things.

I can't say I've ever seen a café this nice anywhere in Michigan.

Toyota