It’s final, everyone – after 13 years of selling cool, offbeat cars to hip young things, Toyota’s youth-oriented North American offshoot brand Scion will officially be folded, with the remaining models under its umbrella to be rebadged as Toyotas from August this year.
The company claims that it has succeeded in its goals in “developing unique products and processes, and bringing in new, younger customers to Toyota” – it sold more than a million cars sold, 70% of which were bought by customers new to Toyota and 50% under 35 years old – but there’s no hiding that the death knell for Scion had been long coming.
The brand’s rise in the United States was nothing short of meteoric, mixing funky models like the xA and xB compact cars and tC coupé with unique selling points such as a fixed “Pure Price” policy, a single basic “Mono-Spec” trim for all its models as well as a wealth of personalisation options.
It helped that Scion’s tightly-focused branding and marketing strategy hit it off with its Gen X target groups, in the way a Toyota campaign with its broad demographic requirements could never have done.
But the brand has been struggling to find new buyers for a long time, particularly those that fit its target demographic. Even though it listened to customer feedback on its first models in developing its new cars, Scion’s second generation of larger, more rounded, more milquetoast cars – starting from the much bigger xB in 2007 – were not very well received.
As a result, sales have fallen from a high of 173,034 units in 2006 to just 56,167 last year, even after introducing the brand to the Canadian market in 2010. It appeared that Toyota was on the verge turning the brand around, not once, but twice – first with the now-discontinued iQ city car in 2011 and the FR-S sports car (known to us as the Toyota 86) in 2012.
More recently, the brand introduced the Mazda 2 Sedan-based iA and the Toyota Auris-derived iM last year, and had just revealed the C-HR concept car in November – the production version would have given Scion a foothold in the lucrative B-segment crossover market. Who knew that just a couple of months later, Toyota would pull the rug from under it, just before it would have a shot at returning to greatness?
“This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota,” said Scion founding vice president Jim Lentz, now Toyota Motor North America CEO. “Today’s younger buyers still want fun-to-drive vehicles that look good, but they are also more practical.
“They, like their parents, have come to appreciate the Toyota brand and its traditional attributes of quality, dependability and reliability. At the same time, new Toyota vehicles have evolved to feature the dynamic styling and handling young people desire.”
As a result of the move, the FR-S, iA and iM will be rebadged as Toyotas – presumably as the 86, Yaris Sedan (as it is sold in Canada) and Auris/Corolla – while the C-HR will be launched as a Toyota. The tC, on the other hand, will spawn a final release series edition before being killed off in August. So, it’s time to say goodbye, Scion. It’s been nice knowing you, even from afar.