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US car-sharing app teams with Sumitomo for drive into Asia

Turo wants rental service available in Japan for tourists at 2020 Olympics

Turo hopes to launch a car-sharing service involving vehicles owned by individuals in Japan. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Turo, the American operator of a peer-to-peer car-rental app, looks to establish its service in Asia with the help of fresh funding from Sumitomo Corp. and others, targeting a Japanese debut by 2020.

The San Francisco-based startup lets car owners rent out their vehicles during times they otherwise would sit idle, much like the popular service Airbnb does for houses or spare rooms. Those on the hunt for a rental can quickly find available cars nearby.

Turo's $104 million funding round closed Monday, and it includes a substantial investment from Sumitomo. The Japanese trading house's "insights into travel and international markets will be instrumental in helping us put the world's 1 billion cars to better use," Turo CEO Andre Haddad said of the partnership.

His company aims to launch the service in Japan prior to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, when a surge of overseas tourists will be looking for vehicles. Turo envisions other Asian forays down the line.

The platform already boasts 6 million users in the U.S., Canada, Germany and elsewhere, with around 230,000 vehicles on offer. These include luxury and electric vehicles not commonly found at car-rental agencies.

Rates tend to be cheaper than those for typical rental cars. Analyzing data on a user's driving history and ratings from past lenders helps the app recommend models and prices suited to each driver. Such data also factors into rates for accident insurance coverage, provided by Liberty Mutual.

Car owners can use the rental proceeds to help pay off the purchase of their vehicles, putting a wider range of autos within reach for more consumers, Haddad has said. The company also unveiled its "commercial host" program Monday, which draws in small car-rental businesses worldwide carrying their own commercial rental insurance.

Turo also has drawn investment from Germany's Daimler, parent of luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz. Rival rental service Getaround has teamed with Japan's Toyota Motor.

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