Patrizia Niehaus, Toyota Financial Services Mobility: “There’s no turning back”
In January this year, Toyota launched its third brand: Kinto, dedicated to providing mobility services. Patrizia Niehaus, Director Mobility at Toyota Financial Services Mobility/Kinto, explains how she wants to help corporates, cities and individuals access mobility services in an easy and efficient way.
“We want to contribute to our society and to the well-being of people. And it’s my goal to support the reinvention of mobility where the car is part of, but not necessarily at the centre of mobility needs. Because moving around in a sustainable way means participating in life and preserving our planet. ”
Patrizia Niehaus joined the Toyota family 18 years ago, when she started working in management development at Toyota Motor Europe in Brussels. In this position, and also in her subsequent position in Corporate Planning for the German market, she became a certified expert in the Toyota Way.
Later, she supported the integration of the biggest telematics insurer in the UK, Insure the Box, into Toyota Insurance Management. Two years later, she moved to Toyota Financial Services as General Manager Mobility.
The new Toyota Kinto brand she helped launch in January 2020 is built around five pillars: Kinto Share (carsharing), Kinto Join (carpooling), Kinto Ride (ridehailing), Kinto Flex (vehicle subscription) and Kinto Go (multimodal).
Why is Mobility part of Toyota Financial Services?
“Toyota Financial Services is nimble and quite agile and we have a direct relationship with the customer. We forced ourselves very early to accept market changes towards shared economy and digitalisation.
Our goal was to walk away from asset to transactional management. The big change was that whereas we now manage monthly transactions, we needed to transition towards micro payments for bus tickets, subscriptions and all kinds of day to day, flexible mobility transactions.
We also understood that mobility services does not necessarily require a car, and even that the car needn’t always be a Toyota or a Lexus. We’re putting the customer at the heart, and their needs to move from A to B or to transport something from A to B.”
What are your main objectives for the future?
“Our idea and goal is to serve cities, corporates and individuals. Corporate customers in particular often have low or zero-emission targets and we want to help them reach those targets by providing low or zero-emission vehicles like plug-in hybrids or hydrogen vehicles.
We also looked into services like corporate carsharing or corporate carpooling, which work like private transportation networks with the employees of one organisation.
With our service ideas we are acknowledging that the majority of daily mobility needs are linked to work life, transportation of goods and people, even if it is getting to your gym or doing the groceries. So, there are always corporations involved and they should or at least could feel accountable that people get there in a convenient, cost efficient and CO2 friendly-way.
Or course, cities are also relevant for us as they have to be attractive to corporations and they often don’t have the required resources to overhaul their mobility offering. That’s where we can come in.
Finally, we also wanted to understand individuals, and not just the urban hipsters but also children, the elderly or impaired people. Inclusivity is one of our core values.”
How can you make mobility attractive and cost-efficient if the markets you operate in are widely different?
“We are currently present in 19 markets and constantly looking for expansion. Now, we need to be able to build the same structure and create an offering that’s embedded in the same principles in South America, South Africa, Europe and Japan. But those markets are indeed very different.
That’s why we defined a small set of criteria: we want our services to have the smallest possible impact on the environment, to be effortless and digital. As long as that criteria are met, local markets get the freedom to do what it takes for their services to work locally.
When we develop a new service, we run it under whatever name and carry it over to the Kinto brand once we see it is viable and we feel it can be scaled up.”
Many mobility services still struggle to improve their ROI. How long do you have within Toyota to make that happen?
“The moment Toyota determined that its third evolution would move towards becoming a mobility company, that was the point of no return. There is no turning back now: Our priority is to serve the mobility needs of our customers. Profitability will be a result of this focus.
At the same time, we’re not at the peak of the learning cycle yet. That can be challenging, but it also reminds me every day that we are in a change process.”
How disruptive is COVID-19 for Toyota Mobility?
“We were quick to respond, for instance by giving corporates and individual clients payment plans to avoid getting them into liquidity problems.
For the start-ups we work with, these were tough times. People stopped being interested in carsharing, carpooling or public transport. They appreciated the maturity of a corporation like Toyota because we made them sit down and work on a plan B, on ways to stretch the cash.
More than ever the automotive business has been thrown into doubt and the future belongs to those who prepare today. Kinto provides a unique platform to leverage new mobility solutions and we are confident that our agility will be the determinate factor.”