Car-sharing services that rent vehicles to registered users by the hour have been growing in popularity, mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. But three major companies, Orix Auto Co., Park 24 Co. and Meitetsu Kyosho Ltd., are now expanding such services in the Tokai region.

Car-sharing for many people makes economic sense because they don’t have to own their own car or pay parking fees and operating costs, including gasoline and insurance, and some feel it makes environmental sense as well.

Normally, participants pay a monthly membership fee and are charged depending on the time they use the vehicle and the distance traveled. If they only use a shared car for a short time and distance, the service can be very cost-effective. In the case of Meitetsu Kyosho’s Cariteco service, a user is charged ¥4,450 to rent a vehicle for 6 hours and cover 30 km. There is no charge for gasoline or insurance.

According to the Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation, registered car-sharing users numbered 73,224 in January, 4.5 times more than a year ago and a 10-fold hike compared with two years earlier.

The uptrend is largely attributed to the increase in the number of cars available under such services in Tokyo during this period.

The growth of car-sharing can also be seen in the Tokai region. Orix Auto took over the business of Tokai Kyujin Service in 2007 and now offers the largest number of vehicles for car-sharing in the region. The key has been expanding the areas covered to condominiums and shopping centers from the original locations close to train stations.

Park 24, meanwhile, utilizes its Times pay lots for its car-sharing service. The company aims to increase the number of cars in its fleet to 100 by the end of October, four times higher than the current level.

Nagoya-based Meitetsu Kyosho plans to harness the advantages of its parent, the Meitetsu Group, by combining its parking lots located in prime locations and the group’s railroad network.

Registered users of the three car-sharing companies in the Tokai region number about 3,000. Each firm is currently looking to tap into corporate demand, as businesses look to cut costs by switching from company cars to car-sharing services.

Orix Auto says corporate demand in Nagoya accounts for more than 50 percent its business, while in the Tokyo metropolitan area the figure stands at about 20 to 30 percent. “Individuals often use the service on weekends, so the increasing weekday demand from companies is helping push up the occupancy rate,” a company official said.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by local daily Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Feb. 10.

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