Toyota launched a pilot program that lets owners of smaller Toyota and Scion products rent a larger vehicle for free. Currently only available in Miami, Houston and Phoenix, it wouldn’t surprise us to see it rolled out to more cities soon.
Small cars can be great fun to drive, easy on the wallet and easy to maneuver. But what happens if you need to make a trip to Ikea? What if you need to haul extra people around? Those concerns might keep you from buying a smaller car and upgrading to a bigger one. For companies that make a lot of small cars, like Scion, that can be a big problem.
Toyota has a website to handle the reservation process. Scion owners can choose from a Camry, Sienna, Tacoma or Prius. The Tacoma would be a great choice for someone who needs to run to Home Depot or Ikea, but we’re a bit surprised to not see the bigger Tundra on the list.
Small Scions typically are fuel efficient, so we find it odd to see the Prius on the list. We see the Camry and Prius being upgrades for someone looking to go on a road trip. Except drivers won’t be able to take them on extended road trips. According to Scion vice president Doug Murtha, there are mileage restrictions on loaned vehicles.
Other restrictions are a bit more obvious. Scion owners can only rent a vehicle 10 days per year, and they are responsible for fuel and damage to the vehicle.
A nationwide rollout seems like it could be daunting. To have that many fleet cars available for whenever someone wants one would basically turn Scion into a rental car business that doesn’t make money. On a small scale, it makes sense. I’d be interested in seeing their plans if they do decide to go nationwide.
I think they are on to something with this vehicle loan program. I know several people who have purchased larger vehicles for the rare chance they might need the extra space. Access to a truck alleviates many fears of buying a small car. Plus, the Scion driver doesn’t have to pay a rental fee for the loan.
As a brand, Scion needs a kickstart. The FR-S received critical acclaim, but as a sports car doesn’t meet the needs of normal buyers. The xB is seven years old; dinosaur years in the car industry. Their freshest cars are the redesigned tC, which only exists as a coupe, the FR-S sports car coupe, and the iQ microcar coupe.
It would be interesting to see Toyota take the program a step further. For example, if you bought a Camry but wanted to occasionally drive a sports car, you could get a free rental of the FR-S. It would also be great for Tundra drivers to get a Prius when they needed to take a road trip.
Will the offer of a free rental drive traffic into showrooms? Probably not, but it will appeal to people who are already in there that might be on the fence about buying a Scion.