Dynamist Blog

Custom Cars

Thanks to distinct looks and lots of customizable options, Toyota's funny-looking Scion is paying off big-time, attracting the young customers the car was designed for. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The new division enters its second year with momentum. Last year, Scion--pronounced sigh-on--had sales of 99,259 vehicles, about 30 percent more than Toyota expected.

In addition, Scion says it's reaching young buyers. That's a significant accomplishment in the auto industry, which is dominated by baby boomers who keep the average age of buyers for most vehicles above 40.

Scion customers are among the youngest in the industry, with the average age ranging from 26 to 38 on the three models of vehicles the division sells, said Jim Farley, vice president of the Scion division at Toyota Motor Sales USA. Moreover, 85 percent of the buyers are new to Toyota, with most coming from Honda.

Those successes are important to Toyota, but the company is also learning something that may be more important: how to sell cars to finicky Gen Y. Over the next decade, the 63 million members of Generation Y--people born after 1980--will replace their baby boomer parents as the largest and most influential population group in the United States.

"These are people who customize their lives," Mr. Farley said. "They grew up with the Internet and high technology, and going to Best Buy and using liberal return policies. They are impervious to mass media."

Mr. Farley calls Scion a laboratory for understanding their quirks and demands. All three models--the amorphous xA four-door hatchback, the intriguingly odd xB four-door hatchback and the stylish, more mainstream tC coupe--cost less than $18,000. All are compacts that weigh less than 3,000 pounds and are powered by economical four-cylinder engines.

A big part of Scion's allure is the dealer accessories. There are dozens of ways to customize — from spoilers and LED interior lights to custom graphics, leather interiors, engine-performance parts and custom wheels.

About 80 percent of Scion buyers purchase at least one accessory, dealers say.

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