No Test Drive? No Price? No Problem for 'First 86' FR-S Owners
May 30, 2012
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Hand Raisers—Future FR-S owners salute the sports car at Scion headquarters during a “First 86” early buyer program event. Not only did they get a behind-the-scenes introduction to Scion, they also got behind the wheel of the FR-S two months before it arrives in dealerships.
What happened when Scion invited consumers to pre-order an FR-S online?
“We got submissions from 3,000 people. They didn’t know the price of the car, hadn’t driven the car and had to put down a $500 deposit at their Scion dealership,” says Owen Peacock, Scion national marketing and communications manager. “We were all completely stoked.”
The enthusiastic response was part of a “First 86” early buyer program that gave 86 consumers the chance to own an FR-S before the model goes on sale to the general public.
“By limiting it to 86, we created a sense of urgency,” says Peacock. “And 86 was a great tie-in to the Corolla AE86, which inspired the FR-S.”
Beginning at noon on Jan. 12, Scion enthusiasts had eight hours and six minutes to submit their requests at www.ScionFirst86.com
. The 86 who were randomly selected then had 96 hours to put down their $500 deposits.
To learn what customers want from the new car—as well as their music, TV and magazine tastes—Scion sent a survey to the group. “We got to know the consumers right out of the gate,” he says. “It was like an early buyer survey before they became buyers.”
Terrific Test Drive—Aaron Lashua of Needham, Mass., gives a thumbs up after powering up an FR-S at Scion headquarters as part of the “First 86” early buyer program.
They shared their transmission and color preferences, which helped the distribution team forecast the mix. While 80 percent of most Scion buyers prefer an automatic transmission, about 70 percent of the First 86 opted for a manual.
During the next four months, Scion sent the group small gifts, such as a Scion keychain. “They started scanning these things and posting them on their Facebook pages,” Peacock says.
They continued to post and tweet at a First 86 event in April at Scion headquarters, where they test-drove the FR-S, met Scion staff, saw rough cuts of all three FR-S TV spots and toured the Toyota USA Automobile Museum. They also attended a Formula DRIFT race in Long Beach, where Scion driver Ken Gushi piloted the FR-S race car.
“At the end of the day, these 86 people will each influence 100 more people because they’re our strongest advocates,” Peacock says.
They’re also an ongoing focus group for everything from ads to accessories. Scion already is following up on their suggestion to create special First 86 badging for their vehicles.
The program also benefited Scion dealers, whose ceremonial deliveries of the First 86 cars attracted media coverage. And, Peacock noted, “We generated 3,000 of the hottest leads dealers will ever get.”
By Susan Pack