Bill Crowder is more concerned with the pipeline from Toyota than he is about the impending disappearance of the Scion "badge" at his Napier Avenue automobile dealership in Benton Harbor this week. The announcement by Toyota that the 12-year old Scion nameplate will transition into the Toyota brand is "no big deal" for Crowder, who is the General Manager and part-owner of Signature Automotive Group at the corner of Napier and Union Avenues in Benton Harbor.
Crowder says that Scion was a low volume performer at his popular dealership since there were only four core models in the line up, and those vehicles will continue to be a part of the line up going forward but will carry the Toyota brand "badge" instead of the Scion brand as the Japanese auto giant melds the brands together this summer.
Both Crowder and Toyota say that the Scion was the automaker's "test tube idea to draw young people into the dealerships, and now that the effort is considered a success, the brands will transition."
Toyota says that the Scion achieved its goal of attracting new, younger customers, and with sales of more than a million vehicles, 70-percent were to customers new to Toyota and 50-percent were to people under the age of 35. Scion's sales dropped by 3-percent last year to 56,187 units. By comparison, three years earlier the brand sold 24-percent more vehicles in 2012 when 73,507 were sold. Both numbers pale in comparison to the high-water mark year of 2008 when the brand sold more than 173,000 vehicles.
Crowder concurs with Toyota that Millennials have a different mindset and now appreciate the Toyota brand for its quality, durability and reliability. They are also attracted to Toyota as the automaker develops cars that are "more fun to drive," with the distinctive styling they're seeking.
Crowder is actually more focused on getting more Toyota produce in general through the supply pipeline which he says put a serious crimp in his award winning dealership over the past year because product availability was reduced by nearly 25-percent from previous years as the automaker battled to keep up with demand.
He's already seeing an improved flow in the new year, and hopes that the trend continues so he can keep eager customers happy with a solid inventory to choose from.
For the Scion brand, beginning in August with MY17 vehicles, the FR-S, iM and iA will all be badged as Toyotas. The Scion tC will have a final edition Release Series 10.0 and will then be discontinued according to Toyota officials.
Crowder's Signature Automotive Group, at 680 E. Napier Avenue, will continue to sell and service the Scion family both now and as the brand transitions to the Toyota nameplate. Crowder says, "At some point, the signage will have to be removed from the building, and it will be one less 'franchise' in the dealership," but otherwise he expects little change due to the disappearance of the Scion name.
Scion's 22 dedicated team members will have the opportunity to take on new jobs at Toyota Motor Sales, and regional Scion reps will assume new responsibilities within their regional offices.