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Checking In With ... Darwin Bicknell:

'Up in down market'

October 02, 2008|By Candice Baker

With the OC Auto Show in full swing, we thought it was a good time to talk to Internet Director Darwin Bicknell at South Coast Toyota.

What’s a hot new model arriving in the future?

The Venza crossover is a real exciting product. Traditionally, Toyota has gone from your Matrix wagon up to the tiny RAV SUV to the Highlander, which drives like a car on the Camry platform, to the 4Runner, which has a rigid frame, to the Tundra, which is a beast. The Venza is a cross between the Sienna and the Matrix. We’re looking forward to it.

Which vehicle is your bestseller right now?

The Prius takes the No. 1 spot, and then there’s the Corolla. It’s a great value for the money and gets great fuel economy.

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Have people started changing their purchases based on gas prices?

The market has been fluctuating dramatically, but we’re actually up in a down market. When gas went to almost $5 a gallon, people lined up for the Prius, but if you figure the cost over time, it’s actually cheaper to buy a Corolla or a Yaris. The Yaris gets 34 miles per gallon.

Has the financial crisis affected whether people are able to get auto loans?

The real word on the street is that the lending criteria are certainly elevated. We’re a little bit more mindful of how much we put on a person. We want to be a little more cautious with our customers. Typically, a lease is the smartest way to go right now, because you know what your Toyota will be worth when you turn it in.

Has the Internet changed how people buy cars?

Absolutely. You’re going to come up here and already know what your payment will be, as well as the value for your trade-in. Then it’s up to us to provide you with great service. The rest is how we follow up with you, once the purchase is made.

What do you tell people who are torn between size and fuel economy?

My guys are highly trained; they continue to go to the University of Toyota, so after customers have done their own research, we listen and can advise them. We take family, safety and ability, and put them all into one package; then we offer them options. Everyone’s needs are different. For me, I personally love my 400-horsepower truck. I can’t imagine taking a quad out to the desert on top of a Prius. Our V8 Tundra gets about 15 miles per gallon, with 400 horsepower. I know that firsthand.

What makes your dealership stand out?

We are one of 16 David Wilson stores. David Wilson started off as a mechanic, and he’s always had the belief to promote from within, and treat people right. It’s a really simple business plan. When David Wilson was the general service manager 33 years ago, he took his own money out of his own bank account, and gave every employee a $100 bill for Christmas. He’s continued that to this day; every employee is given a crisp $100 bill. That’s the kind of guy David Wilson is; we all love to work for him.


CANDICE BAKER can be reached at (949) 494-5480 or at candice.baker@latimes.com.

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