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In new ad, Scion sees bike riders as obstacles in a fight

Posted by on July 11th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Humans on bikes are just obstacles
in a fight you must win, says a Scion ad.

Toyota-owned car brand Scion has unveiled a new commercial for their latest model. In an urban setting, they equate driving with a boxing match where the car is dubbed “King” of the road. Unfortunately, Scion includes a scene with people riding bicycles and refers to them as “obstacles” and then shows the cars zoom by them dangerously — all in an effort to “roll on to victory with the path of least resistance.”

The commercial begins with the ringing of a bell, then a light turns green and the “fight” begins. “When muscular physique meets finesse and precision, the result’s not a close fight; it’s a unanimous decision,” says the narrator. And then, as a group of men riding bicycles turns in front of the car driver (which is of course on traffic-free downtown streets), the narrator booms, “When challenged by obstacles it avoids them with ease.” And the end of the commercial goes like this, “… So roll on to victory with the path of least resistance, the new 2014 scion tc is made to go the distance.”


I can only assume that no one who works at Scion or the company they hired to make this ad has ever been involved in a collision while riding their bike and/or known someone who was seriously hurt or killed on our roads? This type of ad — and it comes from a long line of ads from automakers — is a big reason why tens of thousands of people die each year on the roads in America. Our culture of dangerous driving is perpetuated and funded by the auto industry.

At least there are some commenters on YouTube who are expressing their disappointment. One person writes: “Does Toyota not realize how many cyclists are killed each year by drivers who consider us to be “obstacles.” This is not at all ok. I’ve been a loyal Toyota customer for years, but I’ll be rethinking my next car purchase. This is not an empty threat. I’m very upset about this.”

Watch the full ad below…

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  • Ted Buehler July 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Tell ’em if you’re more or less likely to buy a Scion based on their advertising.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler July 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      & suggest that they donate the $ they earmarked towards running this ad to Bikes Belong.

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    • Jeff July 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks, I just wrote to them, letting them know I’d warn off everyone I know.

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    • Anne Hawley July 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Thanks for the address, Ted. Normally I try to take a positive tone when chiding some company for their bad actions, but I just couldn’t in this case. Here’s what I just sent them:

      I just caught the new ad comparing driving a red Scion to a boxing match, in which bicyclists, women, and animals are “obstacles” who will lose the fight.

      Let me enumerate the people who will be offended by this ad:
      –pet owners
      –anyone who has been injured by some reckless driver’s careless sense of privilege on the road
      –anyone who has lost or nearly lost a loved one to such a driver
      –anyone who has had a pet killed by such a driver
      –police officers and emergency workers who have to contend with the consequences of drivers like the one shown

      Seriously, is your target demographic of young, privileged, irresponsible American urban men so valuable to you that you’re willing to promote car-based violence against all other living things in the public right of way?

      Shame on you.

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    • Brian Davis July 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      I generally don’t get my feathers too ruffled from this kind of thing, but this one was so over-the-top, with such an irresponsible tone, that I couldn’t help myself from having a little fun and trolling. So I opened the live chat at the link Ted posted and asked how the Scion’s “hit list of features” would help me in my fight against cyclists and other obstacles. That’s all it took for the apologies to start flowing. Pretty clear evidence that they’re getting a lot of negative reaction from this.

      I really don’t understand why car makers keep coming out with ads like this. It never ends well.

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    • Spiffy July 11, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      I sent them a message as well…

      my message:

      I just saw the “The New 2014 Scion tC “King of the Coupe”” ad here: [youtube link]

      This ad is in bad taste and offensive to people who walk, bicycle, have pets, or know anybody that does any of the above that’s been run down by a careless driver such as the one portrayed in this horrible ad. You should not be promoting a “fight” with your customers (who walk, bike, and own pets) or reckless driving on city streets.

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  • Anne Hawley July 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Reason number #45038957 that I don’t watch TV. I note that female pedestrians and animals are also the “obstacles” that never had a chance in this terribly righteous masculine-voiced “fight.”

    Blech. Awful.

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    • dmc July 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      I noticed that as well.

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  • Hart Noecker July 11, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I’m curious with all the money that People For Bikes is taking in, why aren’t they running ads on prime time to counter this auto-centric nonsense?

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    • Ted Buehler July 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Lack of $?
      “Based in Boulder, Colorado, we have 38 professional staff (including the Safe Routes to School National Partnership team), 20 volunteer directors, and a $7.5 million annual operating budget.”

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    • BURR July 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      maybe Alta should buy some ads with the money they saved on software contracts and employee benefits.


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    • anon1q2w3e4r5t July 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Maybe because they’re sellouts?

      People For Bikes == People For Volkswagon

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  • Nathan Alan July 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I recommend everyone contacts Scion’s ad agencys.

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    • Pete July 11, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks for the link. I also recommend anyone with a YouTube subscription simply “dislike” this video. Instead of commenting redundantly on it as well, I just voted thumbs up on several comments that clearly echoed my distaste for this ad.

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      • Spiffy July 11, 2013 at 5:02 pm

        thanks for the reminder… I disliked it…

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  • Paul in the 'couve July 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Car ads in general peeve me about the whole autocentric thing.
    The worst aspect is building into the American psychology that driving your car should be enjoyable, that you should feel cocooned in a safe quiet environment with the perfect music, that you are safe in your car, that the right car will give you social status, that the right car will make your life wonderful.

    My theory is that is part of the increase in road rage and the frustrations with cyclists. Motorists feel cheated because actually being in their $50,000 car doesn’t make them “special” doesn’t make them happy, isn’t “fun” and nothing about the experience of driving a car in urbanity is anything like the car commercials. So instead of getting angry at the car advertisement, they get angry at cyclists, because we don’t buy into the advertising.

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    • Kristen July 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      Interesting idea. It fits well into the concept of entitlement culture, in which people think they’re the center of the world and are owed all kinds of wonderful things. It’s hard to accept that the world is inconvenient. (On a related note, if inconvenience is your worst problem, you’ve got a pretty good life!)

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    • Reza July 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      I agree with your overall sentiment, but who says that cars can’t be fun? You just aren’t supposed to *commute* in one.

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      • Paul in the 'couve July 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm

        To be clear I am speaking about the typical (average) experience of driving every day in an urban area. That isn’t fun. And really, people shouldn’t expect it to be fun, and societally we should actively promote the idea that urban driving is about safety and consideration for others and not about having fun.

        I’d even speculate that many of the disagreements in these com-boxes (with Help for example) are strongly tied to this different concept of urban driving. In general I think the public believes that urban driving is about freedom and convenience and pleasure and comfort if not about “fun” perse and a good many drivers do use cars on urban streets specifically to “have fun” by simply driving whether that involves unsafe driving or just driving for fun. This is a concept of driving (in urban areas) that I have consciously chosen to reject. I am a life long car buff. I subscribed to Hot Rod magazine in second grade and read car magazines avidly for about 20 years and enjoyed driving fast and building cars. I still don’t object to those activities on principle. I did come to reject the idea that city streets and urban freeways are about my pleasure and that performance cars actually make any sense or have any “right” to recreate on public roads.

        No matter what car I am in, sitting in traffic is never fun. For the most part running errands and driving in town isn’t much fun, and the expectation that “I should be having fun, I’m driving my cool car” is a bad idea (to the extent anyone holds it – it is my proposal that there is an ingrained psychology that many Americans do believe that deep down).

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      • Kristen July 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

        I’ve come to a similar conclusion myself! I have minimized the use of my car for commuting and errands, intending to save it for long-trips, time-sensitive situations, etc. Urban driving is no fun at all, especially commuting between Portland and Beaverton. Biking is what I enjoy.

        Of course it helps that my gas tank is currently empty and I have no money to fill it …

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    • Help July 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      Your theory is wrong. Drivers don’t like cyclists because they make it harder to drive and slow down traffic. It’s really not that complicated.

      Add a bunch of pedestrians to a bike lane and you’ll get the idea.

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      • Paul in the 'couve July 11, 2013 at 6:07 pm

        But help, there is a premises there that you aren’t stating.

        Drivers don’t like cyclists because they make it harder to drive and slow down traffic.

        The first premise is that drivingshould be easy always.

        The second premise is that traffic should move fast.

        Both of those premises fit perfectly with my theory, that most driver

        Motorists feel cheated because actually being in their $50,000 car doesn’t make them “special” doesn’t make them happy, isn’t “fun” and nothing about the experience of driving a car in urbanity is anything like the car commercials. So instead of getting angry at the car advertisement, they get angry at cyclists, because we don’t buy into the advertising.

        See how it goes together? Most drivers think driving should be easy and think traffic should move fast and both of those are consistent with thinking that driving should be relaxing, fun and convenient. Then anything that that interferes with that fantasy world is bad and makes them angry.

        It is all totally irrational because the expectation is fantasy. Especially since bicycles actually reduce traffic congestion by getting cars off the road.

        You know what makes driving cars suck so much? So many people driving cars. It’s really not that complicated.

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        • longgone July 12, 2013 at 6:55 am

          Help, and his/her ilk are the type of staus quo stalwarts that continue to patch the dyke of Americas dysfunctional love affair with the automotive past, as the rest of the world moves forward.

          Our position as world leader is a joke at best.

          I love a car now and then, I used to own /collect/restore hot rods etc..

          The industrial oil/auto complex has stripped quality cars away from the public for decades now, and left us with crap that is not sustainable and worthless… They are weeds choking our world….WEEDS.
          They are worthless even as a tool of enjoyment, let alone sustainable transportation.
          In the eighties there was a study I read comparing the emission/carbon footprint of old steel unrestricted cars vs. modern plastic autos and the chemical processes to produce them..
          The recyclable/rebuild factor old cars of steel were better for the planet and less harmful to produce and keep above ground and out of the eco system than their modern disposable replacements, despite the emission factor at the tail pipe .
          Americans continue to allow corporations to dictate government and all of our choices.
          Hell, with the rape of the CWA, by Cheney and Halliburton, we will have very little fresh water to live on soon enough, so I do not see the government stepping in to influence industries to progress towards a new world of options in regards to automobiles or multi-modal cities……It will be business as usual from here on out .
          We are all totally screwed.

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      • 9watts July 11, 2013 at 6:27 pm

        Help: “Drivers don’t like cyclists because…”

        Generalizing just a bit, are we?

        You’ve just been caught with your parameters down.

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        • Pete July 12, 2013 at 11:02 pm

          And of course neglecting just how many drivers are also cyclists.

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      • El Biciclero July 12, 2013 at 11:46 am

        Yeah, got that idea. I come across pedestrians on multi-use “bike” paths all the time. I also come across pedestrians walking in bike lanes–I cut them some slack for this illegal behavior because in most cases I can see that there is nowhere else for them to be. Sometimes pedestrians slow my nice 30 mph descent down from the Sylvan area to, I don’t know, 15, or even 3 mph if there is oncoming traffic (read “other pedestrians or cyclists coming uphill”)–a ten-fold reduction in speed. When’s the last time a cyclist slowed you down to a tenth of your prior velocity? Most of the time a driver might have to slow from 25 or 30 to around 10 or 20 for a few seconds. Not much of a drag on traffic overall when you consider the amount of time you might have to spend at a complete stop due to backed up cars causing you to wait through two signal cycles instead of one, or left-turning drivers waiting for a gap they perceive as safe enough to turn through. Cyclists are the least of your worries when it comes to slowing down traffic.

        Want to drive fast and easy? Get on the freeway if there aren’t too many other CARS already there to make it slow and difficult…

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      • Chelsea July 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm

        Take a look at the roads during rush hour. It sure isn’t cyclists clogging them up. 🙂

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  • Elliot July 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I think everyone missed the bigger picture here.

    Mode share in this ad: 60% bike, 20% walk, 20% drive.

    Scion is just predicting the future demise of the auto industry.

    Kudos, Scion! You won’t be around for much longer, especially if you run violence-endorsing ads like this. Your target customers – young urban 20- and 30-somethings – are friendlier to bicycling than your baby boomer marketing execs who approved this ad.

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  • Matt Haughey July 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Weird, last summer, Scion did an ad where the owners rode bikes at a cross race:

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    • Paul in the 'couve July 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      re-enforces the idea that bikes belong somewhere else, not on the road.

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      • davemess July 11, 2013 at 9:19 pm

        Did you watch the ad? There are people on the road in multiple shots.

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    • was carless July 12, 2013 at 8:05 am

      I liked that ad a lot more.

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  • anon1q2w3e4r5t July 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Now check this Scion ad earlier this year…..

    Local bike shop in Downtown Los Angeles, CA == bunch of sellouts like People For Bikes (Volkswagon). I’m hoping one day a new group will emerge who will stand their ground for the livable city/streets movement.

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    • davemess July 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      Just as long as they hate bike share?

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      • anon1q2w3e4r5t July 11, 2013 at 11:14 pm

        They wouldn’t be a real advocacy group if they didn’t 😉

        BTW, to answer your question in the other post, no I haven’t, and I probably never will if I am able to achieve my goal.

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        • anon1q2w3e4r5t July 11, 2013 at 11:16 pm

          Damn it! this comment system needs an edit button!!!

          To answer your other question. I believe Portland’s bike sharing program will be using tax payer money.

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          • davemess July 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm

            “Who is paying for it?
            Regional leaders approved the use of federal transportation funds in 2011 to help start Portland bike share. The City of Portland will use this funding to leverage private investment and make bike share possible. The City and its Transportation Bureau are not committed to purchase or operate bike share, but are managing the grant award and facilitating the selection of a private sector vendor to operate the system. Private sponsorships and revenue from bike share memberships and user fees will cover costs for the bike share system, as has been the case in cities around the world.”

            Note the last line.

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            • anon1q2w3e4r5t July 12, 2013 at 2:56 pm

              Note the second line.

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        • davemess July 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm

          So you have absolutely no experience with it, but just don’t like the idea. How open minded.

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  • Scott July 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I actually find this ad easier to take than the Cadillac ad where they take their sports coupes to unmaintained, crude roads in depressed areas abroad or third world countries and “dominate” the road with Cadillac’s amazing American engineering.

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  • i ride my bike July 11, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Seems like VW is the only car company that doesnt try to peddle their cars with endless tv ads marketing to reckless self centered douchebags or dumb ignorant Amuricans. Even Subaru had a recent ad that disparaged cyclists or transit riders.

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  • Skid July 11, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    At least the driver changed lanes and went around the cyclists, instead of being a stubborn douche, tailgating and honking and yelling “get on the sidewalk!” something that has happened to me in bike-centric Portland.

    I view cars and pedestrians as obstacles when I “fight” traffic in downtown Portland on my bicycle.

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  • Timur Ender July 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Greetings Scion Advertising Team,

    I just had the opportunity to watch your new ad:

    I must say I am most disgusted by this type of advertising that depicts human beings as obstacles and using public roads as a boxing match. This type of advertising alienates and disgusts people who walk, ride bicycles, skateboard, women, people who have pets. Did the brains at Scion corporate turn off when it was decided that running this ad would be a good idea?

    Not only is this dangerous in that it perpetuates a culture of tension on roadways, it is an outright stupid marketing decision. More and more young people are choosing to ride bicycles and are owning less cars. By showing drivers in the light you have depicted does not help your case for reaching the young demographic. I hope Scion will see the light before it is too late and pull this distasteful advertisement immediately. A public apology directed toward people who have been injured and killed by reckless & aggressive motorists is also warranted.

    At the end of the day, the people this ad depicts as “obstacles” are members of your family, your co-workers, and people at your church. Everyone is a pedestrian at some point and many people choose to ride bicycles. Painting human beings as “obstacles” to be avoided does a disservice to America and makes our roads more dangerous.


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  • kittens July 12, 2013 at 12:58 am

    so sick of these cars that look ANGRY all the time. Can’t someone design a car without slanty eyes and a gaping maw?

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  • was carless July 12, 2013 at 7:36 am

    As a male that is addicted to cycling and does appreciate fine automobiles, this ad was extremely callous and insulting. What next, alcohol ads boasting how drunk you can get before driving drunk and running people over??

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  • Titov July 12, 2013 at 7:44 am

    I did the website chat, looks like theyve gotten a lot of backlash

    ” Albert Pimentel: We apologize the advertisement has offended you. We are aware of consumer complaints on the advertisement and will make management aware.”

    Wonder if there are any consequences for the ad agency? They got paid a lot of money to damage the brand.

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    • Kristen July 17, 2013 at 11:01 am

      Ah, the non-apology. “Sorry you were offended” is not an apology, it’s an insult.

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  • Steve Brown July 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

    The ad hit one of my pet peeves. Looks like the cyclists were probably going at close to the speed limit and the car still had to get around them.
    Drivers are pissed if I am going fast or slow. It is why I will not ride through Dunthorpe anymore. The speed limit it 25, if I ride at 20 I get passed, if I ride at 30 I get passed. I wrote a note to Scion and the ad agency complaining about the tone of the ad. I own a new BMW 128. It is enjoyable to drive in traffic at 25- 35 without having to be a dick. Cars get in my way, not dogs, bikes or pedestrians during the 3,000 miles a drive a year. If you do not want to be in traffic, don’t get in the car.

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  • Dave Thomson July 12, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I used the live chat link on their home page to express my concerns.

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  • wsbob July 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Scion, approving an ad suggesting people on bikes be regarded by hoped for buyers of the company’s cars as something like obstacles to be driven around like pylons on a rallye course, was bad judgment.

    Aside from this exception though, Scion makes nice, basic cars. They’re smaller…not leviathan SUV’s. I haven’t had the opportunity to drive one, but in a variety of open road situations, they certainly seem as though they’d be fun to drive.

    Increases in population and higher density population has made driving in and between metro area cities not so fun during commute, business hours and into the evening. There still are though, plenty of places in the metro area where driving can be very enjoyable with little or modest levels of traffic to contend with.

    Even in relatively low traffic situations, performance handling abilities of well engineered cars of Scion’s lineup and those of some other car manufacturers, can help competent, responsible drivers in their efforts to avoid collisions with other road users. That’s the generic safety point about its car’s technological advances that Scion should be emphasizing.

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  • Anne Hawley July 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    The comments accumulating on YouTube are wonderful. Just under 50,000 views right now, 73% negative rating, and every single comment that I had time to scroll down expresses outrage.

    I’d say Toyota is getting the message loud and clear.

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  • Anne Hawley July 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    And a final followup: I got a response from Scion:
    Dear Anne,

    Thank you for contacting Scion.

    We are sensitive to the opinions of our customers and apologize if we have offended you in any way.

    Your feedback is appreciated as it is through communications such as yours that we become aware of our customers expectations and reactions. It also provides us with valuable insight when developing future advertising strategies.

    If we can be of further assistance, please give us a call at 866-707-2466. We are available from 5 AM to 6 PM, Pacific Time, Monday through Friday and from 7 AM to 4 PM, Pacific Time, on Saturdays.


    Greg Shono
    Scion Customer Experience

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  • K'Tesh July 12, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I found another video that was more realistic…

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  • Cyclebee July 13, 2013 at 8:18 am

    This is disgusting I was actually thinking about buying one for my wife I will NOT now

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  • Jo Wartho July 13, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Scion TC 2014 – so I’ve got to remember to add this to the list of cars that could endanger or bully me on my bike rides in Arizona, which so far, mainly consist of:
    Prius and any other hybrid car (stealth bombers of the bike world!);
    Ford Mustangs (I think the drivers of these cars are automatically exempt from tickets for running every single red light/stop sign);
    Trucks (any type), and;
    SUV’s (any type).
    Stupid, stupid commercial, which offends so many people.

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  • NoeValleyJim July 13, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    They made the video private.

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  • q`Tzal July 13, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Seems we were late to the rage:
    The 2014 Scion tC “King of the Coupe” Commercial

    Scion sincerely apologizes to members of the bicycling community that might have been offended by a recent advertisement. It was certainly not our intention to do so as Scion has great respect for bicyclists. Scion is sensitive to your opinion and in response, has made the decision to remove the advertisement.

    Your feedback is appreciated as it is through communications such as yours that we become aware of our customers’ expectations and reactions. It also provides us with valuable insight when developing future advertising strategies.

    If you have any further questions or comments, call us toll free at 1-866-70-SCION, Monday-Friday 5am-6pm PST and Saturdays 7am-4pm PST.

    Thank you for your interest in Scion.

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  • ...... July 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    wow way to be way to sensitive. theirs way more important things the media is rubbing in everyone’s faces then something make separate bike lanes already. no one is driving there car because its a good day out. if you know what I mean.

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  • Noel Tava July 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm
  • Todd Boulanger July 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I was late to the game too…I missed seeing it. Does anyone have a new www address for a copy of the ad?

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