Companies in Japan’s automobile industry are bolstering services that reduce customers’ need for contact with other people as they adapt to the novel coronavirus.
Automakers such as Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have adopted online car sales services.
While sales of vehicles are usually done in person at a dealership, online sales are popular in the United States. In Japan, such services had been limited to imported cars, but Nissan has recently introduced an online chat service for potential car buyers.
Nissan has seen the number of visitors to its dealers drop by up to 60 percent from previous years. A Nissan public relations official said that the company hopes to “reduce the amount of time customers spend at a dealer as much as possible” in a bid to boost sales amid the coronavirus crisis.
In late May, Toyota began to accept test drive reservations and conduct sales services on the internet. While the signing of the contract is still done at an outlet, users said they feel safe not having to go to a dealer to look at which cars they want to buy.
Car sharing services have also gained popularity as an alternative to public transport, as people try to avoid infection risks mainly on trains.
The number of members of the Times Car Share service, offered by Park24 Co., climbed by some 56,000 in the four months from late February. Around 80 percent of new subscribers to the service during the coronavirus crisis switched from trains.
One factor behind the popularity of car sharing services is that users can apply without having to meet staff at an office, unlike with car rental companies. Times Car Share makes sure to disinfect the interior of its cars regularly and place disinfectant sprays inside the cars for users who are concerned about the virus being passed on from other users.
Park24 launched a service in late July that allows long-term use of its cars and is cheaper than car rental services.
“We hope customers will use it as a mode of transport that avoids contact with other people,” a company employee said.
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