Rental Car Demand Spikes in Japan Quake Area

Rental car demand has spiked in northeastern Japan after the March earthquake and tsunami, reports Mainichi Japan. Car rental industry groups in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures estimate demand has been running at least 50 percent and 30 percent higher, respectively, from a year earlier as both local residents and companies are in need of transportation, industry officials said.

In Miyagi Prefecture about 900 vehicles or about 10 percent of the fleets owned by 124 member firms, were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami. Some 70 of the firms reported damage from the quake and tsunami and 13 said they lost the operations of their head offices, the local association said.

In Fukushima, 10 companies have been forced to suspend services at their outlets located within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Rental firms are struggling to replace fleet by buying new cars or borrowing vehicles from outside their prefectures, the officials said. "Our operating rate will likely remain high for some time to come," said Masao Yoshida, a senior official of the Iwate Prefecture rent-a-car association in the Mainichi Japan report.

Some 230,000 rental vehicles were lost in the area due to the crisis, according to the report.

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