A lengthy Automotive News [sub] story on Scion concludes with Scion VP Jack Hollis restating the brand’s basic myth:
Scion was not created for Scion’s sake. Scion was created for Toyota’s sake. It is an investment in Toyota’s collective future.
Hollis’s argument is bolstered by the scenario in which a youngster is attracted to a Scion store by the brand’s youth-oriented marketing, only to leave in a Corolla. Hollis argues that this model means Scion doesn’t have to worry about its sales volume… which is a good thing, considering the brand’s steady sales decline over the past four years. Hollis explains:
We still don’t go with a set [volume] number. Scion wants to be more influential. We want to talk to more people. We’re getting the right people, so the real question is: How do we get more of them?
I don’t know about you, but creating a brand to be “influential” and to “talk to more people” sounds like some vintage, dry-aged, old-school GM branding nonsense. And given that Scion’s sales decline coincided with the rollout of less-distinctive, more Toyota-like products, Scion’s apparent comfort with its recent declines smack of Old GM-style apathy as well (Scion execs respond with the old “but we gave customers what they wanted” chestnut). But don’t worry… Scion has a plan!
How is Scion adapting? According to AN [sub]:
Responding to its multiyear sales slump, Scion is adding two all-new vehicles, including a sporty, $20,000-plus coupe… Scion also is making its retail sales approach a little less laid-back. And Toyota may build Scions in the United States to negate the currency disadvantage hitting its current Japan-built lineup.
Those two new products are the FR-S (FT-86/Toyobaru) sports coupe, which will expand the Scion brand into a performance-oriented niche it has never played in before, and the Scion iQ, a European-style premium city car. Neither will offer the low-cost, high-value positioning that defined Scion’s relatively successful first generation of products, although the iQ does seem to be the relatively better fit for the brand, offering high efficiency and urban utility in a tiny package. The FR-S, in particular, will be priced out of Scion’s traditional entry-level market, and will offer a level of performance and enthusiast-orientation that has never been a key part of the brand. Meanwhile, does that sales chart at the top of this story indicate that Scion should be expanded upmarket, or return to its roots?
But Scion is returning to its roots… in its least-compelling venue, namely marketing. Though niche-oriented marketing has been the one constant amid Scion’s fluctuating product mix and positioning, it’s largely been overly niche-oriented to the point of self-parody. Not that deviants don’t need cars too, but the real fuel economy and practicality value propositions offered by Scion’s first generation (in particular) often attracted a much-older consumer, creating a strange disconnect between Scion’s image and its reality. But don’t look for any of that to change, as Scion is doubling down on its too-cool-for-school positioning.
It is expanding its underground cultural reach into areas such as the “death metal” music scene. The rise of social media means Scion is loosening up the way it talks with Gen Y.
Toyota has always viewed Scion as more of a mad-scientist laboratory than a profit center. It was intended to attract young buyers to the Toyota family in a way that mainstream Toyota compact cars never could.