Scion is Dead, Long Live Scion

Scion, Toyota’s long-languishing “youth brand” is officially dead. Beginning in August 2016, all Scions will be rebranded as Toyotas. This includes the still quite new iA and iM, but not the tC – that will end production in the same month.

The move is not all that surprising to some, as Scion had suffered from a lack of identity for years as well as an uninteresting lineup.

Launched in an attempt to bring down Toyota’s average buyer age (and only selling in the U.S. and Canada), their first car was the boxy xB. It was actually quite successful, although among the older customers and not the young people Toyota wanted to woo. While Toyota execs bet on the “funkiness” appealing to young buyers, the older ones appreciated its utility and how easy it was to get in and out of. The second generation proceeded to lose all of the identity of the first, going from a funky box to a somewhat flabby version of its original self.

Meanwhile, there was the tC which while not actually the sports car Scion marketing pretended it was, was fairly popular. Scion had the xA and xD hatchbacks; if older buyers flocked to the xB and younger ones to the tC, the xA and xD split the difference by appealing to practically no one. There was a similar problem with the iQ; based off a micro-compact sold abroad (the Toyota iQ) it was a Smart without the image, it failed to appeal to the American market and sales were sluggish until it finally received a mercy killing. Scion recently gave the hatch segment another shot with the iM hatchback, though one wonders who will buy it now that it will be sold alongside the much cheaper Yaris.

The FR-S is brilliant but a fairly slow seller; Toyota will likely just rebrand this as the GT86 which is how it’s sold abroad anyway. Scion also recently unveiled the iA sedan, a good car (not a surprise as it is actually a rebadged Mazda); the iA would be a noble attempt were it not for the rapidly declining appeal of the sedan. That may the biggest problem with ex-Scion’s lineup – it notably ignored the crossover, a very hot-selling segment.

Jim Lentz, founding VP of Scion and current CEO of Toyota North America, said in a press release: “This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota.” We’ll see if he’s right, and how many Scions end up on the chopping block after August 2016.

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