Case Study: How Toyota Built a Gig Hero in KINTO
Toyota and the Origin of KINTO
Toyota, one of the world’s largest automakers, has regularly been named one of the world’s most innovative companies. As part of that trajectory, in 2018 then-President Akio Toyoda announced a mission to transform Toyota from an automaker to a “mobility company.” This moniker reflected Toyota’s acknowledgement of a future which revolved around connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) technologies.
In fact, Toyota had already started pursuing this strategy. Prior to the announcement, the company invested in ride-hailing businesses, such as Uber and Grab. It also established a new global mobility brand, KINTO, to operate a range of mobility services worldwide. Toyoda granted Toyota Financial Services the responsibility of developing new KINTO services in local markets. Nonetheless, mobility services represented an all-new vertical for Toyota and the company sought outside expertise.
Toyota partnered with Launch Mobility in order to quickly gain expertise, build and scale its new mobility business in the United States.
The Challenge of Tapping Into the World’s Fastest-Growing Fleet
New gig economy services such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have created earning opportunities for many people. However, according to these transportation network companies, up to 40% of drivers who show interest in working do not have a car that qualifies for service. Furthermore, ride-hail drivers often struggle to get financed by banks wary of their income stability or creditworthiness, and lease vehicles often don’t meet their mileage needs. This represents a massive demand for high-quality vehicles that are easy to access by the week or even by the hour.
As a company that has spent over 60 years perfecting vehicle manufacturing, sales and financing in the United States, Toyota lacked a product to meet this demand. But as the team explored innovation happening beyond the traditional loan and lease markets, it identified a model gaining traction: Vehicle-as-a-Service (VaaS). In a VaaS model, providers make vehicles available on a usage basis, facilitated by technology, rather than as a purchase. With a short-term rental solution, Toyota could match the work patterns of gig drivers, whether they drove on an infrequent or full-time basis. The VaaS concept fit perfectly with the company’s new KINTO initiative, which established a global brand for future mobility services.
But they needed help. Internally, Toyota lacked experience running high-velocity, always-on mobility services. They also needed technology to build an efficient service that could be centrally managed. They explored options to build, buy or license that technology.
Prioritizing speed to market, it became clear to the team that licensing was the right path. So Toyota put out a request for proposals and evaluated a range of vendor solutions for KINTO.
Why Toyota Chose Launch Mobility
Beyond basic capabilities, Toyota sought a solution that was able to grow with KINTO as it iterated and scaled. According to Jimmy Ouyang, National Manager for KINTO, “we focused on finding a partner that had the flexibility for us to develop a solution for the future.” Also, added Ouyang, “Flexibility and getting to market is important, but aligning to your overall objective is key.”
As a result of the RFP process, Toyota partnered with Launch Mobility to design a short-term, self-serve rental solution that could fill the critical need in the ride-hail market, generate significant revenue from off-lease vehicles, and be operationally efficient enough to generate a profit. KINTO would station vehicles at Toyota dealers and other partner locations for approved users to reserve, pay for, and unlock all via their smartphones. Mike Groff, then President and CEO of Toyota said, "We are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of drivers who are interested in ridesharing but lack an appropriate vehicle. Toyota has the off-lease vehicles, Launch Mobility has the technology, and Toyota dealers have the geographic presence and unparalleled vehicle servicing capabilities."
How Toyota Used Launch Mobility to Power KINTO
Launch Mobility powers KINTO with LM Mission Control, its sophisticated fleet, user and business rule management platform. Launch Mobility also provides the mobile apps that drivers use to interact with the service. KINTO allows qualified drivers to access high-quality, well-maintained cars to drive for ride hail or delivery. In doing so, KINTO provides drivers not only with access to cars, but also with access to the gig economy.
In addition to the technology, Launch Mobility deployed its Operations Services practice to support KINTO’s customers. Launch Mobility maintains a team that provides 24/7 customer support to KINTO’s drivers.
KINTO unlocks massive market opportunities by enabling short term rentals with driver self-service. Drivers can book vehicles in advance or on demand. The entire registration process, including driver license verification, background check and payment of the application fee, is managed by the KINTO mobile app. Once a driver is approved, they can search for available vehicles in their area, manage payment methods, make a reservation, communicate with KINTO support, and even lock and unlock their vehicle with their smartphone. The entire reservation process takes just seconds. The KINTO app is designed to be simple and user friendly to create a seamless user experience.
LM Mission Control provides a virtual command center for the KINTO team. This cloud-based tool enables KINTO to manage its entire service, including its fleet, drivers, and business conditions. KINTO’s support team monitors vehicle conditions through real-time telematics. And when a customer contacts KINTO support, LM Mission Control gives the team full control to take action. The team can manage bookings, invoices or customer status - whatever it takes to deliver a great customer experience.
For added productivity, KINTO integrated its preferred CRM and customer support ticketing systems with the Launch Mobility platform. These integrations allow the global support team to provide top notch service around the clock.
Launch Mobility features a host of alarms to ensure speedy resolution to any issues that pop up. For instance, when a vehicle goes outside its allowable area, both the driver and KINTO team are immediately contacted to make sure everyone is aware of the situation. Another example: if a driver rates a vehicle’s cleanliness below average, the KINTO team can have someone waiting to wash the vehicle by the time the driver returns. Operation managers also track business KPIs in Mission Control and can access all the data generated by the program.
KINTO demonstrates why experts are forecasting significant shifts to access-based business models. KINTO has opened the gig economy to a whole new set of drivers and fulfilled a worthy vision of VaaS: democratized access, sustainably delivered. And in the process, Toyota has taken a proactive role in developing this innovative new frontier.