Toyota announced today that their Scion “youth brand” would come to an end as of the 2016 model year. Low sales and lack of interest one the part of the buying public were the number one factors.
Launched by Toyota in 2003 as a new channel to attract young hip slick and cool buyers, the brand took off initially. But to Toyota’s surprise the average buyer age was instead 49, not at all the audience they were after.
Cool products like the first Scion xB really set a tone for the brand initially. They were quirky cool and miserly. I actually owned one and found it a very good all around daily driver that was far from dull on any day.
Unfortunately for Scion, that xB was their high point. It was later replaced with a dull and less distinctive model to go along with the brand’s other mix of Japan domestic market cars like the tC and xD.
Sales failures like the iQ were another sign the brand had lost its punch, a micro car that was over priced, under performed in fuel economy and was no fun at all to drive. Then the FR-S came along, which at first gave hope for Scion.
The rear-wheel drive sports car shared with Subaru as the BRZ and marketed around the globe as the Toyota GT-86 however might have been best marketed here in the States the same way instead of under the Scion badge. It was only done this way to help keep Scion alive.
This year two new models joined the Scion lineup. The iM which is actually a reasonably nice car is simply a re-badged global market Auris or Corolla 5-Door. Then there’s the iA, a re-badged Mazda2 sedan built in Mexico.
Even with these new models, the Scion brand in the past few years has sunk in sales such that dealers no longer separate them in showrooms or in sales practices. The pure price principle is a faded banner in the back of the dealer lot for all intents.
What will become of all these models starts with the current Scion xB that was already discontinued and only 2015 models remain on dealer lots. Other models however will for the 2017 model year continue on with a Toyota badge on them instead of Scion.
The Scion FR-S has remained a strong seller for the brand and will at least continue through its product cycle as a Toyota branded car. Whether they will keep the FR-S name or change it to GT-86 depends on how long they keep it.
The soulful successor to the Toyota Celica, the Scion tC coupe’s long-term future is anyone’s guess. Like the FR-S it will continue forward with a Toyota badge as long as the brand sees a market for a small coupe to compete against the the Honda Civic and Kia Forte coupes.
The new iM is I think a valuable product in the Toyota lineup, offering 5-door capability in the Corolla realm. I don’t see this model getting canceled any time soon. In fact it may be one of the stronger of the Scion models to transition into the Toyota brand.
The only model I see big question marks for is the iA sedan. Mazda canceled their own version of the car here in the States last year due to slow sales. And this car re-badged as a Toyota honestly makes little sense when they have a Yaris already that fills this space. I sense that if any Scion models get the ax, this will be the first.
If you own a Scion or are thinking of buying a new one, don’t be worried. These are Toyota’s now and always will be. Just as today, you will take them to a Toyota dealer for service and warranty work, and we know Toyota isn’t going anywhere.