The Rise of the Scion Nation

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In the six months following Scion's introduction in a limited number of Toyota dealerships in California, some 9,613 cars were sold in California. Jim Farley, the vice president of the Scion division, says that Scion's nearly invisible marketing campaign has worked much as expected. He says, "The no. 1 way the customer in California found Scion was by seeing the vehicle on the street. In-person discovery and the Internet are the keys to the purchase process."

Not everything has gone smoothly, though. One of Scion's strengths is its dedicated finance company, which attempts to streamline the purchase process for its untraditional clientele. Nevertheless, Scion discovered that its customers were even more skeptical of the finance process than anticipated, and it has made an effort to ensure both that the finance rate is posted in plain sight and the prices for all the purchase and service plans are itemized in a convenient menu.

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Scion also learned that the process of equipping its cars with accessories (the key ingredient in making these inexpensive cars a profitable proposition for Toyota dealers), must be left to the individual buyer. Scion owners are purchasing the cars with $1000 of accessories on average (three times more than Toyota's predictions), but they want to determine the mix of accessories themselves and usually steer clear of showroom cars already equipped with parts installed by the dealer.

For all the good news, it's clear that Scion continues to be a work in progress. For example, the rest of Toyota keeps getting in the way. Every time a new Scion takes the stage at a car show in front of the national press corps, there's always some aged, back-slapping Toyota executive standing in front of it and spinning another talk about corporate sales. As a result, it's too easy to think of Scion as simply a marketing initiative. And because Scion has been too timid to put a face on its customer base and show us what its people really look like, it's easy to believe that Scion people don't exist.

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