The Scion brand was among the first “alternative” automotive youth brands in the US. Highest-ever monthly sales were 19,252 units in August 2006, but Scion may have lost its soul since. In 2010 (before any earthquake-related shortages), sales averaged 3,800 units a month. Compete assessed key drivers of Scion sales (shoppers and conversion) to help reveal the drivers of Scion’s off-pace results, and fielded a survey on consumer perceptions of Scion.
Missing the Shopper Recovery
The number of unique Scion shoppers at the brand level has trended down over the past 30 months. (Unique means shoppers of more than one Scion model are counted only once at the brand level). Fewer shoppers in 2009 could be related to the recession, which impacted everyone. Through the first half of 2009, Scion’s Share of Market Interest (SMI) was fairly steady, meaning its shopper volumes tracked with the market. But as market shopper volume has recovered since then, Scion’s has not: its SMI was near a period low in June 2011. Keep in mind that vehicle shortages impact sales, not shopping.
Scion More Quirky than Youthful?
To shed light on possible reasons for Scion’s SMI decline, Compete fielded a digital general population survey in June on consumer perceptions of the brand. Over 60% felt they did not know enough about Scion to have an opinion. Of the 39% that offered an opinion, “quirky” and “economical” led results. In a recession, “economical” would seem to help shopping and sales; perhaps “quirky” is overpowering “economical.” “Youthful” was a distant third, potentially leaving Scion with a market hinging on quirky but economical products not quite geared toward younger buyers.
Scion Soul in Context
Kia’s Soul was one of the models that followed in Scion’s footsteps. It has distinctive styling in the boxy genre and a low base price, and its advertising has argualbly been youth-oriented. For context, Compete compared shopper volume for Soul against Scion overall. The volumes are surprisingly similar (meaning that Soul alone has about the same number of shoppers as Scion overall). The strength of Soul may mean that some would-be Scion shoppers instead shopped Soul, or may have shopped Soul in addition to Scion.
Showdown in the Showroom
Despite similar shopper volumes, Soul monthly sales have averaged 37% higher than Scion’s, and have exceed 10,000 units in each of the past four months; Scion averaged 4,850 in the same period. So while Scion and Soul each had the same potential for sales, Kia has been more effective at converting Soul shoppers into Soul buyers. Soul conversion has better Scion’s in all months but one since February 2010.
The good news is that Scion today has the potential to sell more vehicles, based on current shopper volumes (or souls). The bad news is that it has lost shoppers over time in absolute terms and relative to the market, and its ability to convert shoppers into buyers trails potential rivals, like Soul.
Of course there’s more to the story. Logical next steps Scion can investigate to restore sales include the following. These same steps can be used by others looking to launch Scion-compatible products to better understand Scion’s trajectory to date:
- Understand why the market’s shopper growth is not reaching Scion
- Ad effectiveness: Compare SMI to share of voice: coincident drops in both may simply mean Scion was outspent.
- Avoiders: Field a shopper avoider study to in-market consumers of Scion rivals that are not shopping Scion and ask why (lack of awareness, lack of familiarity, etc.).
- Spillover demand: Quantify reverse-cross-shop trends to reveal which rivals’ shoppers are cross-shopping Scion and which are not and how that has changed over time.
- Understand Scion conversion inhibitors
- Benchmarking: Compare Scion conversion trends by model against target rivals.
- Influences: Evaluate conversion relative to core conversion influencers, such as inventory levels, incentives, and other conversion influencers.
- Rival refinement: Evaluate Scion cross-shop data to help reveal the extent to which Scion’s actual rivals are not target rivals, and the extent to which conversion by target or true rivals is impacting Scion conversion.
Lincoln Merrihew is the Senior Vice President of Transportation at Millward Brown Digital. At Millward Brown Digital, Lincoln is responsible for steering the Transportation Team, which encompasses the automotive and travel practices. Before Lincoln joined the Millward Brown Digital team, he worked at TNS Custom leading the Automotive team, and then continued on there to lead business development for 10 different industry verticals. Lincoln's career aspiration is to create game-changing solutions and insights. Connect with Lincoln on LinkedIn.