The coronavirus pandemic may have permanently damaged Japanese drivers’ willingness to share a steering wheel.

Short-term car rental businesses across the country are suffering, with consumers appearing reluctant to expose themselves to the risk of being infected by touching surfaces in a shared vehicle. That’s led Park24 Co., operator of the country’s largest car-sharing business Times Car Share, to report its first quarterly operating loss since its 1997 listing, and warn of tough times ahead for the industry.

Japan’s leading short-term car rental providers are generally fleet-based, "point-to-point” services that make use of spare spaces at existing car parks. Peer-to-peer lending, where individuals lease their own vehicles to others, is much less widespread, while ride-sharing services have yet to receive approval from authorities. Times is by far Japan’s biggest car-sharing business, with more than 13,000 spaces nationwide, followed by Mitsui Fudosan Co.‘s Careco and Orix Corp.’s Orix CarShare.