Earlier this month, Toyota Motor Corp. announced the launch of a new service to lease its luxury Lexus cars at a set rate. According to the Feb. 6 edition of the Nikkei financial newspaper, the service will be launched in Tokyo and then expanded to other parts of the country starting this summer. Customers will pay a fixed monthly fee of ¥194,400 for a three-year lease and can change the car every six months, choosing from among six Lexus vehicles, including an SUV.

The monthly fee will cover both taxes and insurance costs. The automaker will target customers who want to drive different types of cars at a relatively low cost. Although such fixed-cost services are already popular in the distribution of music and videos, Toyota's new program will become a touchstone for the automobile industry, the article said.

Toyota has thus entered into a subscription business as it tries to cope with the shrinking domestic auto market. Its website carries a message from President Akio Toyoda, who states: "I am determined to transform Toyota from a car-making company into a mobility company. This means that Toyota will provide all kinds of services related to transportation to people around the world."