Customers First Honorable Mention: Scion

Scion

I don't consider myself to be the typical Scion customer, and I doubt the folks at Scion think so either. In fact, at 35, living in the suburbs, I'd say I'm rapidly approaching Honda Odyssey territory. The typical Scion buyer is roughly 25, and, well, much cooler than I am. Scions are marketed as highly customizable forms of transport for the urban wannabe street-mod crowd, a group to which I definitely don't belong. And I generally like large luxury cars and SUVs--the kind that burn gas quicker than an F-15 at full throttle. So why did I buy a Scion within minutes of walking into the dealership? It was partly because I was made to feel like I was buying a car, rather than being sold one, and partly because at almost 40 miles per gallon vs. the 8 of my other car, the thing practically pays for itself. Scion's recent run of stellar sales figures--June marked Scion's three-year anniversary, and sales on its three models were up an average of 24.5% over a year ago, with the toaster-oven-like xB leading the charge with a whopping 46.5% increase--are no surprise given the way it sells its cars.

Scions are sold through Toyota dealers, although not all Toyota dealers sell Scions. My experience started with an offer of a cup of coffee, and ended when I walked out about 45 minutes later, signed contract in hand. In between, I dealt with a salesperson named Angel, who was also the person who guided me through the financing process and handled the delivery. Scion's sales strategy is "pure pricing," which basically means no haggling. None. The price printed on the sticker is the price you pay for the car. There are no discounts, no factory to dealer incentives, no bonus programs, no cash back, no customer loyalty bucks, no End of Season Overstock Blowout Extravaganzas, and hence, no buyer insecurity.

Not that I didn't try. Here's what my 15 minutes of attempted haggling over the minicooperish xA (sticker price: $13,320) with Angel sounded like:

"Pure pricing? Come on.... Shave off $500 and I'll buy the car right now."

"Nope. Sorry."

"Give me a break... How 'bout $100?"

"Nope."

"Ok fine... Throw in those floor mats and we've got a deal."

"No."

"Rear cargo mat?"

"Nope."

"Can you at least promise to leave my dignity intact?"

"I'll see what I can do."

"Sold."

I paid $13,320. Then the real fun began. Scions, it turns out, are infinitely pimpable, and the dealership had everything in stock ready to be installed. And I don't mean bigger wheels or a peel-n-stick wood trim dash. I'm talking LED lights that would make my cup holders glow an eerie blue, or a set of lowering springs that would, well, lower my car (for what exactly, I'm still not sure). In fact, it's the customization that makes Scions appealing to lots of folks. Adding accessories is a part of the buying experience--not something that you pick up from "Vinny in the parts department" the next time you bring your car in for service. There are displays on the showroom floor right next to the cars, showing you exactly what your blank canvas of an xA can look like after a few extra hundred (or thousand) dollars invested.

When I went to the dealership a few days later to pick up the car, I noticed a tiny scratch on the front bumper, and pointed it out to Angel. He seemed genuinely concerned, and said he could do one of three things: touch it up right there, make an appointment for me to bring the car back in and have the bumper replaced, or offer me a free year of Sirius satellite radio. I took the year of Sirius. Twenty-four-hour commercial-free bluegrass never sounded so sweet.

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