Have car, don’t drive: How market research solved the mystery of car renters who didn’t drive the car anywhere

Making the rounds last week was a news article in The Asahi Shimbun sharing their mysterious problem that a lot of people in Japan were renting cars but never driving them. Given that the company earns at least part of their revenue from mileage, not driving a rental vehicle cuts into their bottom line. It’s seems pretty straight forward that people who rent cars want to drive cars but it’s also pretty clear that the company didn’t know their customers as well as they thought they did. They needed to turn to market research.


Bring in a little Monday morning quarterbacking and the answer is obvious. In a highly dense, busy, and stressful environment like Tokyo, people needed a quiet, private, and secure location in which to conduct their business – eat their lunch, have a nap, store packages while they shopped, take a phone call, or have a meeting. Given the price to rent a vehicle, the value and convenience simply couldn’t be beat.

If a car rental company doesn’t know who their customers are, then how likely is it that you know who your customers are? Are people drinking your delicious beverage or using it to clean their toilet? Are they using condoms to have protected sex or to keep digital devices dry, mouthwash to clean their mouth or to freshen garbage cans, aspirin for headaches or to treat bug bites?

Sure, it’s important to understand how your customers are using your product, but it’s also important to understand how people are “misusing” your product. Once you know this, you can then change your packaging and marketing to target a new audience and build your consumer base beyond the original growth plan.

Face it. We aren’t all Steve Jobs, so smart that he never needed to use research (unless you realize that market research is a very large toolbox incorporating all types of consumer discovery tools that he did in fact use when the task was suited to them).

Mysteries abound in the consumer world. Marketers and brand managers can’t know everything all the time, and mysteries aren’t always so blatantly obvious until after the data has been collected and analyzed.


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With nearly 40 years of experience, Canadian Viewpoint is a field and data collection company that specializes in English and French offline and online services. We offer sample, programming, hosting, mall intercepts, pre-recruits, central location recruitment, mystery shopping, site interviews, IHUTs, sensory testing, discussion boards, CATI, facial coding, and other innovative technologies. Learn more about our services on our website. Canadian Viewpoint is a founding board member of CRIC (Canadian Research Insights Council).

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