By on July 8, 2014

photo_tenant_tesla

 

It’s not an exceptionally large showroom, but the façade is enormous. The Tesla retail store in Columbus, Ohio wraps around an entire corner of the Easton Town Center, that city’s premier upscale shopping venue. My trip to the store, the first time I’d ever set foot in a Tesla retail location, was an eye opener. Tesla’s retail model is an example of what Scion could have (and should have) been.

Tesla’s presence at Easton is inextricably interwoven with the history of American retailing. Easton is the brainchild of L Brands founder and CEO Les Wexner, who has overseen the growth of some of the country’s biggest names in retail: Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, Bath and Body Works, Lane Bryant, and many others. Easton opened for business in 1999, as part of the new wave of American retail venues that appeared in the late 90s and early 00s. These were indoor-outdoor hybrids, replete with restaurants, entertainment venues, and other “lifestyle” amenities. Consumer response to these new options was strong, and today Easton is still one of the state’s most successful retail development projects.

Easton’s rise was directly linked to the decline of traditional malls. Northland, Eastland, and Westland were opened in the 60s to serve customers in and around the Columbus metro area. Of the three, only Eastland is still in operation, and it’s currently for sale. De-urbanization and the general decline of Columbus’ old neighborhoods near the city’s core hurt these malls, but they were also undermined by changing customer expectations. When Easton opened (as well as the copycat Polaris Fashion Place developed by the rival Glimcher development group), it suddenly made the indoor malls seem like relics of a bygone era. Easton had anchor department stores like Macy’s, a movie theater, some indoor small shops, and other features that traditional mall customers expected. But it also had bars, quality restaurants, a children’s park, and even a luxury grocery store. It also had a myriad number of high-end standalone retailers that were previously only to be found in exclusive locations in big cities: Lacoste, Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, Coach, and many others.

Eastland and the other traditional malls didn’t need these kinds of retailers to satisfy the basic demands of their traditional customers. But what the luxury brands did was give Easton a halo of respectability and posh refinement that itself was an object of consumer desire. Although there are plenty of rich people who shop at Easton, a $2500 handbag is well out of reach for most people who go to the mall. What Easton does is give the plebs the chance to rub shoulders with the moneyed set before sneaking into Macy’s to buy a $40 dress. Wexner’s decision to arrange most of the high-end stores along a single boulevard lined with metered parking was a stroke of genius. Every day the main thoroughfare is flanked by an ever-changing lineup of Benzes, BMWs, Porsches, and exotics. The other malls withered, and then crumbled. Northland Mall, just a few miles up the road, was torn down in 2004.

Now, Easton has a store that sells electric cars. It would be tempting to say that this store is unlike any that have come before it, but that isn’t really true. There’s a Model S in the middle, of course, as well as bodiless chassis buck. Otherwise, the Tesla location looks a lot like the other high-end retailers ringing Easton’s perimeter. Soothing but distinctly modern Muzak plays through the ceiling, and everything is brilliantly lit and tastefully furnished. There are a variety of slick technical displays explaining various features of the car, as well as options.

Most importantly, the walls are covered with logo merchandise of every type, shape, and description: t-shirts, coffee mugs, tin lunchboxes, baby onesies. All of this is overseen by Tesla personnel, in this case two young men. They were as fastidiously dressed and groomed as any Brooks Brothers employee, and had the manners of a really good sommelier at a high end restaurant: polite, unquestionably confident, and just easygoing enough to talk you into making a really expensive decision. Or, if you want to buy a $25 shirt, they’d be more than happy to help you with that too. What the Tesla location resembles is not so much a car dealership as the Puma store it replaced: a variety of premium branded goods, sold by handsome young people in a clean and upbeat atmosphere.

Contrast that with my last visit to a Scion daler, which was pretty representative of all the Scion dealers I’ve ever set foot in. The Scion display was in the corner of a much larger Toyota showroom, which was itself part of a large dealer group. It was constructed in the manner of virtually all large car dealers: a bunch of lots and showrooms in their own area, distinct from other retail outlets. The Scion display consisted of a single panel, which was filled with informational pamphlets. Half of these were for products that either no longer exist or are in some kind of planning limbo.

The other half were for the kind of cashback deals and financial incentives that can be found in any dealership anywhere. The only Scion in the showroom was an automatic xD, which was dusty and fingermarked. I fooled around with it for a good twenty minutes without anyone bothering me. I had a salesman on hand about thirty seconds after I started examining the new Corolla. There was some Scion logo merchandise, but it was in the parts department alongside all the overpriced windshield wiper blades and camo pattern trailer hitch covers. There was nothing that jumped out as edgy, different, or alternative. Certainly, there was nothing to make you think you were anywhere but a car dealer.

It was pretty clear that nobody much cared about the Scion side of the dealership, and why should they? People don’t come to Toyota dealers looking for Scions, they come looking for Toyotas. Scion will never be much more than a distraction for the salespeople, who are much more invested in selling Camrys, Corollas, Rav-4s and Tundras. At this point, most Scion sales are either to the limited number of enthusiasts buying FR-S’s, or people who were disappointed to find out that the Corolla doesn’t come in hatchback form anymore and decided to settle for something else instead. Scion urgently needs new product, but it also needs a complete overhaul of the buying experience. The traditional dealership format is completely inimical to accomplishing the stated goals of the Scion brand: attracting a younger clientele to Toyota products, while modifying the traditional dealer experience.

The history of retail is a stream of constant reinvention. Every generation has contributed some important innovation to the backbone of the consumer economy. Online shopping is perhaps the most relevant current example of this trend, but brick-and-mortar stores have been reinventing themselves too. Walmart wiped out many smaller grocery chains, as well as traditional department stores. But it failed to steamroller the entire grocery market because it became synonymous with lower-end retail. Publix, Target, Kroger, and other chains have hung on by offering a more pleasant shopping experience and a better selection of higher-end goods.

Similarly, Easton represents a way of reinventing retail to better serve the needs of a modern, affluent clientele. Tesla, with its direct sales model and glimmer of luxury branding, represents a perfect fit for Easton’s retail model. It’s a brick-and-mortar store, but one with a distinctly modern feel. And although its main product is out of reach for the majority of Easton’s customer base, it still offers other ways to capture some of that Tesla magic. The Tesla showroom is a constant parade of gawkers, most of whom come away distinctly impressed by what they’ve seen. This is ground zero for building a brand, and Tesla is hitting it out of the ballpark. Why can’t Toyota emulate this model for Scion?

The answer, of course, is that Toyota isn’t in any position to disrupt the market in such a way. They are firmly a part of the American automotive Establishment, just as much as any of the Big Three. Their franchise dealers are their lifeblood, and are responsible for much of their American success. Setting Scion up as a direct sales operation would have required throwing these dealers under the bus, as well as a massive legal campaign with no guarantee of success. In short, it would be an incredibly foolhardy move, and it’s no surprise that Toyota eschewed it in favor of following the established model. This meant, though, that Toyota missed the opportunity to do something really revolutionary with the brand, or at least make it seem revolutionary.

When GM launched Saturn, there was nothing on paper that made the dealership model seem any different from previous ventures. However, the focus on customer service and satisfaction was such a revelation that even import brands were caught off guard. Toyota didn’t try to shake up the dealer experience with Scion, besides some milquetoast moves towards customization and fixed pricing. Instead, Scion was just another car brand from the get-go. The unapologetic functionality of the first generation xB, and the promise of an Eclipse with Toyota reliability undergirding the tC, were enough to pull in a decent number of early adopters. After that, the brand languished. Scion didn’t damage Toyota’s fortunes, because the product wasn’t shoddy or defective (for the most part). The brand underperformed, however, because it did not deviate from the norm of American auto sales in any meaningful way. For a brand supposed to be based on youthful rebellion and nonconformity, that was the kiss of death.

It may be too late now to salvage the Scion brand. And if Toyota decides to pull the plug on the FR-S at the end of this generation, it may be that the company won’t keep Scion around anyway. Even so, I believe I have a workable proposal for reversing Scion’s fortunes, at least on the marketing front. Take some of the money that’s being wasted on FR-S TV commercials and use it to open some storefront locations in prime shopping areas.

Let these be places where potential customers can get a feel for the product in a non-traditional setting. Put two or three cars in the showroom, and let a few employees explain their features and options. Give customers the opportunity for a test drive, if that’s workable in a given location. When somebody wants to buy, use the power of that newfangled Internet thing to match customers up with locally available inventory. In short, keep Scion customers out of the arms of dealers until the last possible moment. Use the stores as merchandising fronts for the Scion AV music venture. Be like Tesla, and offer copious merchandising opportunities all along the way. If you’re serious about turning Scion into a “movement,” then provide the means for that to happen. Dealers and a few sponsored events aren’t going to do it for you. Keep the franchisees around for their service and sales infrastructure, but don’t rely on them to market Scion for you. You don’t need to sell six-figure electric cars to create buzz. You just need some good product, presented in a relevant and novel fashion. That alone will buy you a lot of credit with the disaffected youth of today’s marketplace.

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48 Comments on “Editorial: Tesla is What Scion Should Have Been...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I bought my former xB1 from a store 2 hours from my house, rather than the one 10 minutes away (Pittsburgh area). Here’s why:

    The Scion store was in a separate building about 100 yards from the Toyota building. I found no sales people inside the Scion building, and it was messy inside. I had to fetch someone from the Toyota side to help me.

    I actually made a ‘deal’ for a green, manual shift xB (not in stock), and settled on a trade-in value for my VW. Three days later, I called them to see if they’d found the car I ordered. No, they said, we can’t find that combination anywhere in the country. Within 2 hours I found 3 of them myself – at one dealership in Cleveland. I brought the info to the dealer; they shrugged and said “go ahead and buy that car”. So I got my down payment refunded, drove to Cleveland, and bought the xB from a very nice Toyota/Lexus/Scion dealership.

    Based upon my Scion shopping experience, if I ever consider a Toyota in the future, I won’t be buying it from my local dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      There’s really no excuse for a showroom to ever be in a messy state!

      By comparison, how was your Leaf buying experience?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        The Leaf buying (lease, actually) experience was pretty good. The car I got was the only one they had on hand, and it was sitting in the showroom.

        I knew they were eager to move it, but they were not as well-informed about the vehicle as I was (late 2012).

        The test drive hooked me, and the incentives and lease terms were attractive. Personally, I was wary of battery degradation vs the crazy buyout residual, so I chose to lease; I don’t regret that decision.

        The dealer has been very good to work with since then (PA state inspections, software upgrade, tire mounting).

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Thanks. I sort of wondered if they got some training to treat a Leaf customer differently than the average Sentra or not Maxima buyer.

        • 0 avatar
          360joules

          I’ve been nibbling on the hook of a Leaf for 2 months. 3 test drives, 2 different salespersons. Very low pressure from a dealership chain known for an average buying experience. They pushed the lease option.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      To be fair, the toyota dealers in Pittsburgh are just bad news. They’re massive, powerful, and indifferent to their customer base. When I got my xB2 from Rohrich Toyota the Scion branding was barely visible and the scion lot was the a tiny 10-14 car lot on the low side of their complex. By comparison the other two dealers were devils, the first one nearly had a fist fight with my family because they wouldn’t talk private financing at all and the latter one refused to work with me on the new for ’09 option color I was looking at as the alternative to the teal car I bought even though they were literally on the lot they refused to acknowledge they could sell them.

      I don’t know if it is just a fact of the powerhouse that Toyota is in sales or just the piss poor salesmanship in that region. By comparison I had to get a part replaced in Flagstaff and the Toyota Dealer here had FR-S and tC models out in front proud as peacocks. Extremely pleasant and tried to sell me a ’14 xB2 while I was waiting. I was tempted but frankly, I want to see if an xB-esque variant will show up before I settle on a design that’s 6 years old.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Distinctly. Modern. Distinctly modern.

    We get it. But there was a whole lot of rambling before you said what you wanted to say.

    The bottom line is that Scion was a lower-branch of cheap cars, targeted at the young. If it were a mall store, it would fit next to Sears, or a tired old JC Penney. It would not fit in a high-end mall with bougie women toting around Coach bags, because it’s not a high-end product. They were not an innovative product; they were reboxed Corollas. Tesla is an entirely different product, in a different decade, sold to different (eg. older, more independent, more liquid, better credit, more fashion-conscious) people. It was/is a new manufacturer which was not burdened by the staid image of an older, established parent.

    Sort of like if, in the 80s, GM had decided to sell Geo at kiosks inside Parisian or Elder-Beerman. The comparison here doesn’t work.

    • 0 avatar
      A Caving Ape

      From the Tesla site:

      “PORTLAND

      Tesla Portland brings our revolutionary retail concept to Oregon. From interactive experiences to friendly Product Specialists, Tesla is redefining the way cars are sold. Stop in to learn more about our groundbreaking electric vehicles.

      Tesla Portland is located between Sears and the food court. “

      • 0 avatar
        fozone

        It is located in Washington Square Mall, the busiest in the southwest Portland suburbs, with all of the usual high-end stores.

        This isn’t something from abandonedmalls.com.

        • 0 avatar
          fozone

          And actually, now that I look at it, their service center is located a stones throw outside of Lake Oswego, near Bridgeport Village.

          These Tesla folks aren’t idiots – they know where their customer base lives (the southwest part of town, more car friendly yet eco-conscious) and planned accordingly.

          I bet if you looked at their service centers around the country they followed a similar strategy.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Scion is a youth sub-brand. That sub-brand actually succeeded in achieving that goal, with the lowest average age in the business.

    Scion is also intended to get buyers into Toyota showrooms. That may or may not have worked; I presume that TMC has some proprietary research that would answer that question.

    The problem is that the youth market imploded just as Scion was beginning to gain some traction. The timing proved to be lousy, and it may be too late to do anything about it.

    Tesla is obviously a much stronger marque. But as a standalone brand, but it doesn’t offer much of a lesson for Scion, which is a sub-brand that is intended to bolster its parent brand.

    At the end of the day, Scion sells lower-priced run-of-the-mill cars, and there’s only so much that can be done to glamorize that. Scion needs to be in Toyota stores because that’s one of the primary reasons that it was created in the first place, i.e. to sell more Toyotas.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      A car dealership in a mall makes me think of the Blues Brothers “I see the new Oldsmobiles are in.”

      • 0 avatar
        gkbmini

        As a young child, I remember shopping at the Dixie Square Mall. Unlike the movie, the mall never had an Oldsmobile dealer. The place was pretty much a hole. Looked better in the Blues Brothers.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      This deserves obvious repeating. It’s not even an independent marque owned by Toyota, Lexus is. Scion was meant to come in as a series of Corolla/Echo/Yaris based cars that changed the formula of the 3-box sedan while offering something interesting and something cheap. The finish of the cars are minimalistic to a point of spartan while offering a way to upgrade with electronics and sound systems.

      Overall the resentment at Scion for failing seems more based on establishment perceptions of what a mass-market seller should be. Basically when we look at their US sales numbers they’re respectable for a low-end limited-model brand. Kia is doing 10X what scion does in a month but with a full range of cars and SUVs. Kia has 14 traditional models, Scion has 1, the xD as a small compact, the rest are either low-selling traditionals (tC & FR-S) or experimental/non-traditional styles (iQ & xB). It’s just not a fair comparison.

      Give Scion a RAV-4 SUV decontented or a sub-compact SUV brought over from Japan and I guarantee we’ll see 6-figure sales numbers immediately.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The only thing Tesla and Scion have in common is that maybe Scion could have benefited from Tesla style high profile, retail marketing campaign. But that is about it. Scion was supposed to be aimed at converting a younger demographic into Toyota customers. It products were cheap, frugal and reliable and had (use past tense is deliberate) an edgy urban style that was to appeal to younger folk. Tesla is none of these things. It aims to be a disruptive brand aimed at affluent customers who are attracted by the newness of the technology and the coolness of its entrepreneur founder Elnon Musk. To say that somehow that makes Tesla what Scion should have been is a long, long stretch.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Makes me a little homesick for C-town.

    I had one experience with Scion, a dealership that was also sharing floor space with Toyota. I was checking out the FR-S, had to track someone down to get some help. On the test drive, the dealer asked me what other cars I was considering. I said, “Miata.” He said, “What’s that?”

  • avatar
    Kaosaur

    In all honesty, Tesla retail stores remind me of the dealership Saturn opened on West 57th Street in New York, right next to the FAO Schwartz.

    When it first opened, at least.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      It is Saturn that always comes to my mind, not Scion, that should have been the uber-Tesla. I thought at the time of GM’s restructuring that Saturn should have been their Volt outlet, and become the equivalent of their Prius line (and later their Tesla line). All water under the bridge, but I think Saturn’s (later gutted) unique approach and branding would have made it work. It at least would have been better than trying to sell those awful Ions…

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    The whole Scion thing has a remarkably “GM” feel to it. Totally half-hearted effort from top to bottom. Only the original boxy van thing had any appeal. The rest is a huge ‘so-what?’Never thought Toyota could show such contempt for its own product.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, Toyota was betrayed, as was GM, by the way consumers answer survey questions. You see, consumers DO want to play the game. They just want to be guaranteed a win.

      Talk about commitment? The Ford Collection experiment. Ford bought every Ford and L/M store in Tulsa, OKC, Indy, SLC, and San Diego to provide a consumer experience surveys indicated would thrill them. Instead, consumers took the easily obtainable price from the Ford Collection and went to the outlying markets to buy their Ford product. Ford blew hundreds of millions on the grand experieny. The entire industry watched it unfold, then unravel. Auto OEMs lost any will they might have had to engage in retail. You can’t pay the overhead with smiles. Auto OEMs learned that when they operate retail distribution, overhead goes up, not down.

      • 0 avatar
        healthy skeptic

        >> Auto OEMs lost any will they might have had to engage in retail.

        Ummm…Tesla?

        In any case, the Ford Collection and other half-baked attempts by OEMs to do direct sales should only reinforce the need to strike dealer protectionist state laws off the books, since the free market clearly doesn’t support direct sales as it is.

        Right?

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          You can’t buy a Tesla from a Tesla Dealer, what you’re buying is a Tesla from Tesla Inc. The difference with this argument and the Ford Collection is the Dealer is getting money from both sides of the fence. They make a profit by selling you a car and they make money from the OEM from rebates and sales quota bonuses. This is why market competition in the exact same product is frowned upon and somewhat anti-competitive because if Dealer A, B, and C all receive a Focus at X dollars the only economic difference should be location and foot traffic. The more ethereal issues of customer service come in, but it’s hard to measure, but at the end of the day we know if Dealer A is pushing 3X the units of B & C combined then Dealer A will eat 1/2 their profit on a car because they’ll just push more, so you get a better deal but B & C lose their lunches until they shut down and A is the only one left thus leaving them free to dictate prices.

          Mixing direct sales with dealerships is a complex and difficult thing to manage. Tesla didn’t go that route and they’re reaping the benefit of nobody else having their new vehicles at this time.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      +1 Lightspeed

      Seems the same effort Toyota poured into establishing Lexus was completely missing this time around. Of course, the small profits the XB, tC and others generate for ToMoCo probably reflected itself in that lack of effort.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    I don’t see why Scion should get any special treatment. As clearly pointed out, Tesla is novel, Scion is not. In fact, in the terms used by someone we all know around here, an ES300 was described as a jerked-off Camry. As such, I would presume that going downmarket for moth-pocketed youth would make Scion the dry-hobo-jerkdown of Toyotas. I understand one can acquire one of these across street from the Eastland mall in the Macy’s seconds furniture parking lot where I may have purcased a sofa. At least that’s what a friend said once.

  • avatar
    omer333

    It helps that Tesla has an air of exclusiveness, while Scion isn’t even close.

    • 0 avatar

      Might have something to do with the price of the two brands you mention. Having finally sold 25K total units, about what Toyota sells in a day, they can claim exclusiveness. They can also claim cachet. What they can’t yet claim is viability.

  • avatar
    mmh2

    Change a few brand names around, and this article also perfectly captures how H-D mismanaged Buell.

    • 0 avatar
      omer333

      Buell wasn’t helped by the fact that H-D dealships tend to be t-shirt shops with motorcycles.

      Don’t even get me started on H-D dealers and their overall douche-ness.

  • avatar
    morbo

    Ah Scion. The Geo, Eagle, and Merkur of the next generation.

    Can’t wait for Hyundai or VW to create some useless sub-brand for 2020’s.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Well said, although Hyundai and VW have resisted the conventional wisdom to do so – and I think they’ve chosen wisely.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        VW already offers eleven brands (twelve if you count “VW Commercial” which they consider a brand I suppose). Two of those eleven are commercial truck mfgs (MAN and Scania, with MAN owning a stake in Scania despite being 70% owned by VAG). AFAIK the superfluous car brands such as Skoda and SEAT are not specifically “youth oriented” and were buyouts of local producers (Skoda in Czech Rep, SEAT in Spain).

        http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/brands_and_products.html

        KIA is technically an independent company in which Hyundai has a 33.99% stake. If this were not the case I would call the brand redundant in the wake of Hyundai, a “useless sub brand”. Given the facts of the case, I don’t see either brand spinning up a new marque which could impact each other’s sales.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kia_Motors

        If any OEM were to be creating a new brand stateside in the near term future, I think it would either be VW or Nissan/Renault. VAG has more than enough cash and an image issue with VW in the US. Nissan/Renault may be looking to sell new uber-cheap disposable cars and feel a brand might be appropriate, or perhaps they might want to bring over Renaults as a rebadge but not call them Renaults.

  • avatar
    salguod

    For what it’s worth, Westland is still open, but largely vacant last time I was there. It survives for now on the hopes that the now open casino down the street will bring it new life.

  • avatar
    Takumi788

    I am 26 years old and own a Scion FRS and have to say this article is spot on.

    Like most others my Scion dealership is located with-in a Toyota dealership. Actually, all the Scions are located outside in the parking lot. The Toyota salesman that “helped” me was completely not interested in the car and knew NOTHING about it aside from it having a boxer engine made by Subaru. I had done my research on the car and knew WAY more than he did about it. Scion was started before I was of age to get my license(meaning I am their target audience.) Even though they succeeded with the FRS, I would NEVER consider another car in their line up. A lot of FRS owners including myself, swap the Scion badges on the FRS to Toyota GT86 badges. Meaning Toyota failed SO BAD at marketing Scion to young enthusiasts that we would rather be seen driving a Toyota.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    The product and clientele is just vastly different. You can’t treat them the same. It is easier to hide the marketing cost of Easton style storefronts in a $70k EV than it is to do the same for a $20k tC.

    I’ve actually been in the Easton Tesla showroom. The condition of the assembled car parked in the showroom gave me pause about how well the vehicle would wear over the long term. The huge touchscreen was impressive, but I couldn’t help but notice how ragged/unfinished the car looked in some places.

  • avatar

    “When Easton opened (as well as the copycat Polaris Fashion Place developed by the rival Glimcher development group), it suddenly made the indoor malls seem like relics of a bygone era. ”

    The more things change…

    The first regional shopping mall was Northland Center, just outside Detroit, developed by the J.L. Hudson company in 1954. Eventually, to keep up with the fashion, Northland was enclosed in 1974, but it didn’t start out as an indoor mall. The concourses were exposed when the mall opened.

    http://atdetroit.net/forum/messages/6790/159807.jpg

    http://www.cardcow.com/images/set330/card00712_fr.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      One surprising thing I’ve found in central TX is how popular these outdoor ‘destination malls’ are. I would have thought that, given the literally hellish summer heat, indoor malls would have remained more popular.

      I don’t think demographic or geographic migrations are doing as much damage to malls as Amazon and easy internet discounting. I reckon supermarkets with gourmet food courts would be a better inheritor of the retail mantel, at least until Amazon cracks the local grocery nut.

  • avatar

    SCION has failed to produce either volume or gross profit. It seems there are not enough people who support their SCION Purchase Experience to make it viable. Hence, the hot product gets sent to Toyota where they move the metal and make gross profit. It seems, in reality, the traditional model holds up well in real life while the “Ultimate Purchase Experience” wins in consumer surveys. Go figure.

    The Saturn Aura was a tremendous car. Yet consumers eschewed it in volume to go to Honda and Toyota stores for the abusive experience to buy Accords and Camrys. Go figure.

    RE: Selling new vehicles from malls: In the case of the Model S, it doesn’t make any difference to wealthy early adopters where the car is displayed. They were going to buy it anyway. The fact that Tesla has now sold about as many cars as Toyota sells in a day doesn’t mean mall locations are successful for the selling of new vehicles. Tesla has yet to make it to “mainstream”, where trade ins have negative equity and consumers no cash, and less than “fast track” credit.

    Malls don’t have a lot of unique visitors. They have the same people visiting over and over… mostly women and teenagers. Traditional dealers found that out long ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I agree the Aura was a great car (certainly stylish…for a GM), but it was no Accord or Camry quality-wise….

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The problem with Scion and Saturn isn’t the buying experience – it’s the product.

      After the xB1’s demise in 2007, Scion never offered anything of interest, and their sales reflect that.
      “http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2012/10/scion-brand-sales-figures-usa-canada.html”

      To be fair, however, Scion is selling at the same rate as Volvo. But Volvo doesn’t have a Toyota parent.

      Saturn’s business model was always broken, since they never once made a profit for GM. No haggle pricing couldn’t have been the cause, since that part of the equation was fixed in place. Saturn was being killed on the expense side, and their cars just weren’t good.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You’re right about Saturn and its profit issues but there is a difference between pre and post 2000 Saturn product. Saturn actually had a half decent product for its time and sold well for its first five years. But reinvestment was minimal from its parent because it was always losing money. By 2000 it became clear the brand could not be successful to it was effectively euthanized and become a generic GM distribution channel in lieu of Oldsmobile. Could Saturn have ever been profitable in a parallel universe? Possibly, but margins on small cars isn’t as large as trucks/SUVs and GM’s overall costs until its bankruptcy were relatively high. The fixed pricing may have been at just over (or just under) margin, but I doubt doing away with it would have made the company profitable.

    • 0 avatar
      pbxtech

      My wife loved her 2007 Aura, but it had lots of problems. That may have been my last GM. I’d love a Volt, but I just can’t trust GM’s quality.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Lamenting that Scion isn’t more like Tesla is like lamenting that Swatch isn’t more like Tag Heuer.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Perhaps Toyota should of left Project Genesis, before it changed to Scion, untouched. Rather, they listened too much to their American marketing team. The Scion models do fine in Japan and other countries, but not here. I highly doubt Toyota is immensely focused on selling these Scion models to the US market.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I’m not sure I’ve ever felt dumber for just having read a headline before.

  • avatar
    MisterNoisy

    Scion screwed up with the gen 2 product mix. The g2 xB was an unmitigated disaster and the xD is completely fugly regardless of who you are. If they’d have simply up-equipped something more like the original xB and offered a plug-in hybrid option (hell – the Prius C should have been the xC), we’d be talking about how they’re selling the cars of tomorrow today.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I keep hearing the xB2 was an ‘abject failure’ but fails to account for two very real things: The Kia Soul & it’s price advantage. On paper after the auto transmission the Kia Soul only has a 1K price advantage but true car puts the base cars at 1.5K apart and that’s without the alloy rims which brings the xB up to a bit over 2K difference. It’s easy to see how an aging design that has not gotten a great deal of love is falling behind the niche market leader which is one of Kia’s prime sales movers.

      If Toyota had branded the xB as a Corolla variant and put the kind of power Toyota has behind it as a real Soul challenger it would sell much better but it was left to languish on the vine. Dollars make real differences and while the soul is substantially smaller if you’re an average person it isn’t an issue.


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