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Through our in-house scheme and attention to fine detail, we aim to resolve social issues including disability and aged care.
To give car users more convenience and less trouble...
Apart from passenger vehicles, forklifts, and so on, Hitachi Capital Group is directing its efforts toward solutions for disability and aged care vehicles.
Resolving all kinds of social issues to create a future where there are smiles on the faces of more and more people - that is our mission.
Cars are a form of transport integral to life in contemporary society. Here at Hitachi Capital Auto Lease, part of the Hitachi Capital Group, we mainly handle the group’s auto lease business, and have been providing services around cars, primarily auto lease services, for many years. We continually strive to improve our services so customers can make use of their cars with peace of mind, not having to worry about the troublesome paperwork to do with vehicle management like insurance, taxes, and maintenance. We aim to be “No. 1 for maintenance services” in the auto lease sector, for example by setting up joint operation with Sumitomo Mitsui Auto Service Company, Limited, with which we formed a business and capital tie-up in a 2012.
We handle a wide range of vehicles to meet customers’ demands, from new or used passenger vehicles to forklifts, trucks, and special purpose vehicles, including vehicles for disability and aged care purposes, a need that has been growing from year to year. Anticipating from early on the arrival of population aging, we have been providing auto lease services for disability and aged care purposes aimed at local governments, setting up in 2008 an office to provide consistent support for the fabrication, customization, and sale of disability and aged care vehicles, to launch full-scale services in this area.
Hitachi Capital Auto Lease is currently the only company in the auto lease sector in Japan to have its own disability and aged care vehicle customization workshop. Our firm intention to respond to customers’ needs with care has enabled us to create a set up that can meet customization needs directly. Everyone at Hitachi Capital Auto Lease is doing their utmost so that disability and aged care facility users have comfortable access to those facilities, and so that the burden on the staff at those facilities is lightened, even a little. Here now are some actual examples explained by one of our managers key to the kinds of fabrication and customization services we actually deliver.
Hitachi Capital Auto Lease Corporation
I work in Vehicle Solutions at Hitachi Capital Auto Lease. As the business leader in the vehicle customization center, which is in Hitachi, Ibaraki, I provide support for disability and aged care vehicle business development at our branches across Japan, and I manage overall coordination of vehicle delivery, including customization works and vehicle dispatch.
While the number of people needing care is increasing year on year, there is a shortfall in the number of facilities that can accommodate care users, meanwhile, the workload of care staff is only increasing. For example, one particular issue that has arisen with day-care services is to do with transferring people who don’t have free use of their legs in the morning and evening.
Because different day-care center passengers use transfer services on different days, the care required and the numbers of users change. Vehicle manufacturers have recently been directing efforts into developing disability and aged care vehicles, but their standard vehicle specifications mean they cannot currently meet those particular needs. We often hear from care facility staff that “the entrance is confined, so it’s difficult to get into and out of the vehicle”, “we’d like to be able to put a day-care facility user in the passenger seat, but the step up is too high”, “it’s difficult moving from the 2nd to the 3rd row so you can’t help them in urgent situations.”
So, our company has developed the capacity to customize the commercially available disability and aged care vehicles to optimum specifications. We devise ways of making it easier and more convenient for people to use the vehicle, for example, by making it easier to get in and out by installing electric powered steps at passenger seats, creating more space inside the vehicle and around the entrances by making seats foldable, and installing the kinds of handrails that commercially available vehicles don’t have.
Something that care facility staff are particularly happy about is the vehicle specification that allows for 3 wheelchairs in one vehicle. Most commercially available disability and aged care vehicles are built for 2 wheelchairs, so to transfer 3 or more, it has been necessary to increase the number of trips, or add more vehicles, incurring manpower and capital costs, and adding to the burden on care facilities. So, we have made it possible to switch to the 3-wheelchair specification by folding up seats with the touch of a button, which has led to a reduction of the burden on care facility staff, and has been quite popular among them. This has formed the basis for development of our original Amazing Series, which we are providing to customers across Japan through semi-custom ordering.
As more and more disability and aged care vehicles have come into use, one issue we have noticed is the expansion of maintenance services. For example, if the power lift, which raises and lowers the wheelchair, breaks down, it is hard enough just finding a repairer, because there are so few workshops that can fix it. What’s more, the repairs are expensive and take a lot of time, causing trouble for a lot of disability and aged care facilities.
So, we have launched an initiative to increase the number of workshops that can offer repair services, making disability and aged care vehicle maintenance possible anywhere in Japan. First, when we became a supporting member of the Japan Wel-car Future Meeting Club, we started training sessions on disability and aged care vehicle maintenance for the members who are also maintenance service providers. They endorsed our desire to develop this field, which is an area of social concern in Japan, and we managed to gradually increase the number of maintenance service providers.
A precondition for tie ups with maintenance service providers is that they have a vehicle to replace the disability and aged care vehicle. The reason is that if there is no replacement vehicle when repairs or registration inspection are needed, the care facility will find themselves in a situation where they are not able to do transfers. In that case, service users cannot receive care services, and the care facility might miss opportunities. So, ensuring that a replacement vehicle is available makes for a system that users can use anytime, with peace of mind. And on the cost side of things, including repair costs in the maintenance lease fee means care facilities can curb unexpected outgoings.
As of December 2017, 161 maintenance service providers had joined the network, which is still short of being a complete nation-wide system for follow up. Our intention is to continue boosting the number of maintenance service providers in the network, and to go on expanding the coverage area providing support for disability and aged care facilities across Japan.
While the existence of disability and aged care vehicles has become common knowledge in recent years, the number of people who use them and the number of places where a replacement vehicle is available are still limited, which is a continuing inconvenience for disability and aged care facilities. That is indeed why we are taking a leading role in maintenance and customization, making it our mission to provide support for transfer services so they can operate seamlessly. And it is also why we too are learning every day about welfare and aged care, not just vehicles. Plus, we are posting Welfare Leaders, staff members fully equipped with welfare knowledge, to our branches across Japan, as we direct efforts to develop the capacity to respond to customers’ needs with care.
As builders of vehicles, what we place most emphasis on is caring for disability and aged care facility staff and the people who use those facilities. This can be summed up in our Amazing Series, created in response to customers’ feedback. But we have not yet responded to all their demands. Our aim is to work even more closely with our customers as we go on building vehicles, and we are focusing our efforts on reflecting their opinions and demands once they have actually been used by those disability and aged care facilities. We are actively engaged in providing vehicle demonstrations, and some facilities are telling us “This is just the sort of vehicle we have been wanting!” From my point of view, nothing could make me happier, and I am sure that putting smiles like that on the faces of more and more people will lead to the enhancement of welfare and aged care services. And to that end, my intention is to go on building vehicles that are always new and convenient to use, in close step with customers’ wishes.