Saturday, March 12, 2016

Scion Has Finally Died!

Alexander Carabitses

Well folks, the predictable has finally happened... Toyota's youth experiment, Scion, is dead.  At this point, I'll go as far as to say that it's rightfully dead, given that it let some of its products languish in the market for an extended period of time, which in turn caused it to lose touch with its customers.  Here's Scion's story:

Scion launched at the 2002 New York International Auto Show with the BBX Concept and the CCX Concept.  Only the BBX reached production as the first generation XB, while the CCX was killed off in favor of a rebadged global hatchback, the XA.  And while the CCX was a unique niche model that would surely grab attention for the brand, the XA was a typical hatchback that faced internal completion from the Toyota Yaris, right off the bat. The vehicle saw a decent amount of sales, while the XB proved to be a massive hit; these two models were later joined by the TC coupe, which also proved to be popular with the youth.  Hey, two out of three ain't bad, but its that third vehicle, the XA, that set the course for Scion's future.

The second crop of Scion models debuted at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show; they were the second generation XB and the second generation XA, now renamed XD.  Both of these models looked bloated and dull, and in the case of the XB, it was a major disappointment, as the vehicle had pretty much lost its charm.  Scion then went on a three year product hiatus, until it launched the second generation TC and the iQ at the 2010 NY Auto Show.  The big problem with the second generation TC was that it was competing in a dying segment, as compact coupes were losing kinetic energy in the market at this point.  The iQ minicar was a good idea for Scion, but it was overpriced at $15,665. And of course there was the lovely FRS, the only car in their lineup that one could actually stand.  It joined a lineup filled with bloated hatchbacks, an overpriced city car, and a useless coupe.  By this point, it had become clear that Scion had lost its way in regards to product, as it failed to keep up with the tastes of young buyers.  Instead of being unique in terms of the product choices it offered customers, Scion began following the common industry practice of "If a customer wants to stand out, they can buy a special edition model."  So Scion flooded the market with their Release Series special edition models.

By 2012, Scion had lost touch with its customers, due to their failure to continue setting themselves apart with unique and competitive products.  One has to remember that many of the models in Scion's lineup at this time were also sold as Toyotas, elsewhere in the world (i.e. FRS, XD, iQ, XB).  Scion must have realized that they dropped the ball at this point, which leads to my suspicion about when the subsequent death of Scion was planned.

*Note that this "planned death of Scion" is pure speculation on my part, solely based on the timing of some product launches.

A facelifted version of the TC launched at New York in 2013, along with special edition tenth anniversary models.  It was at around this time when I read an article that mentioned how Jim Lentz, (Toyota North America's CEO) viewed taking the Scion brand upmarket as an option. The idea would be for Scion to become a competitor for entry level luxury sedans..... how stupid is that????? About a year later, after not hearing any news from the brand, it was announced that several new models would be arriving, beginning in 2015.  As I look back on it, the period between April 2012 and April 2013 must have been when the decision was made to axe Scion.  However, Toyota wanted to make this as smooth of a transition as possible, so in 2014, they killed off the XD, followed by the iQ in early 2015.  Last year in New York, we saw the iA (i.e. Mazda 2 sedan) and the iM (i.e. Toyota Auris, sold in Europe).  These were two badge engineering jobs that Toyota was banking on to save Scion, both of which were scheduled to be followed by the CH-R crossover this year.  These new models offered effective replacements for the XB and XD, and conveniently filled the voids left by the Toyota Yaris sedan and Toyota Matrix.  This offers effective proof that the decision to kill off Scion wasn't made one month in advance of the announcement, last month, but rather several years ago.  Think about it, the Scion iM and iA have only been on sale since September, and Scion, after touting these cars as the future of their brand, abruptly kills off the brand five months into the life cycle of these cars.  On top of this, the CH-R, Toyota's entry into the very popular subcompact crossover segment, was coming soon, and in the US this vehicle would be sold exclusively as a Scion, and undoubtably, save the brand.  Yet, Scion was killed off about a month and half before the vehicle's US debut.  Now, the three new Scion models, as well as the FRS are being absorbed into the Toyota brand, while the TC and XB (both of which are somehow still around) are being killed off.

In the end, Scion was an interesting experiment that Toyota decided to undertake, and it failed miserably.  Ironically, this is actually the second time that Toyota has launched a youth brand, watched it crash and burn, and then had it absorbed into the Toyota lineup.  Now given that most of the products, the dealer network, and (more than likely) the marketing budget for these new models are not changing, Toyota doesn't really lose out here.  Heck, the public doesn't lose out, because most people don't give a damn about Scion anymore, beyond the FRS.  The fact that people don't care is Toyota's own fault, as Scion is the equivalent of a "challenged" child who's parents are presented with evidence that their child has a problem, but chose not to do anything about it, even if they have the opportunity to do so.  Toyota never fixed Scion's product problem when they had so many opportunities to do so, and for that reason, we can officially say that Scion is dead.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

(Scion CCX Concept- Image credited to Toyota/Scion)

(Scion BBX debut at the 2002 New York International Auto Show... the launch of the Scion brand.  Image credited to

(The First generation Scion XB, alongside the dull and pointless XA- Image credited to Motor Trend)

(First generation Scion TC- Image credited to Toyota/Scion)

(The second generation of Scion models looked bloated- Image credited to ToyotaScion)

(The second generation Scion TC, a car that shouldn't have existed- Image credited to Toyota/Scion)

(Scion iQ, an over priced economy car is an oxymoron- Image credited to Toyota/Scion)

(Scion FRS, an attractive RWD sport coupe- Image credited to Toyota/Scion)

(Facelifted 2nd-gen TC...the beginning of the end for Scion- Image credited to Toyota/Scion)

(Scion iA, based on the Mazda 2 sedan)

(Scion iM, based on the Toyota Auris Hatchback)

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