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Business

Toyota invests in US car-share startup Getaround

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Toyota Motor is wading into the emerging field of peer-to-peer car sharing with an investment in a California startup, joining the ranks of major global automakers such as BMW and Ford Motor.

The leading Japanese car manufacturer invested in San Francisco-based Getaround via a fund created jointly with Japanese asset manager Sparx Group and others. The startup is thought to have received around $10 million from the fund, and how big a stake that provides has not been disclosed.

Getaround, established in 2009, facilitates the rental of privately owned vehicles between individuals. This peer-to-peer car-sharing service lets renters use a car for as low as $5 an hour, while the owners receive income. Getaround's service has attracted more than 300,000 users around the U.S.

Toyota has developed a device that locks and unlocks a car door via smartphone. The company plans to begin testing this tool in the U.S. as soon as this year. Getaround provides a similar system to car owners, but a Toyota device likely will make the owners of the company's vehicles feel more secure about renting them.

Toyota also has invested in Uber Technologies, the U.S. startup that has driven the growth of ride-share services worldwide. Speculation exists that the rise of a sharing economy would reduce vehicle sales, yet some U.S. consumers are buying new cars with the intention of earning money by renting them when they are not in use. Toyota aims to tap such demand with its involvement in peer-to-peer car sharing.

U.S. research company Frost & Sullivan estimates that 9.8 million people will use car-share services in the U.S. and Europe by 2025, up from 1.3 million in 2014.

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