By on August 8, 2012

 

A couple of months ago, Aaron Robinson of Car & Driver wrote an expansive article about Scion.

This quote pretty much summarized his view on the brand.

“I have no doubt that Scion will eventually go the way of Plymouth.”

I’m sure he wasn’t implying that cheap Scions will someday morph their way into becoming Toyota equivalents that offer fake wood trim exterior panels and trombone case red interiors. As a long-time automotive writer and columnist, he was simply reading the proverbial writing on Scion’s firewall that has been ever deeper ingrained into their product line.

“Mediocrity… is killing the brand.” This inscription ought to be welded onto every frumpish inner panel of Scion’s soon to be defunct models, the Scion xB and Scion xD. Underpowered compact cars that look like SUV’s in 2012 sell about as well as two-seater cars that look like frogs. Or bland plain-jane sport coupes that try capriciously to do battle with the market leaders.

Heck, I recently saw a perfectly fine 2010 Scion Xb with only 28k miles sell for $10,000 at a well attended dealer auction. A near forty percent drop off the original MSRP over just a two year period. In my profit driven world, where nearly every Toyota model represents stiff price premiums and high demand finance fodder, nobody wants to buy these things.

The reason for this market failure is obvious.

If a product is inherently bad or terminally neglected, no name brand will save it. It’s that simple. Every brand out there has market failures. In the case of Scion, they are going from a 2 for 3 boom on their debut generation (xB and tC good, xA not so much) to a 1 for 5 second run (FR-S may likely be the sole survivor.)

Scion is on the ropes if you look at their current model line-up. But the same could have been said for Hyundai back in 1999, Subaru back in 1994, or even the 1st generation Infiniti models back in 1992. All of these brands suffered mortal market wounds of the debilitating type.

But that did not mean the brands could not fill a gaping void in the marketplace. All of them succeeded because they found several niches that no other brand could fully satisfy.

Which brings us to the dire need of the present day.

Right now Toyota and Honda are facing a market exodus in one broad segment that is largely a reflection of their own long-term successes. Where do you go after you have already owned the reliable family car? Or the commuter scooter that has taken you everywhere and back with low ownership costs?

In the old world the move was pretty simple. The automotive world was upwardly mobile and that Toyota or Honda buyer could be just as content in a Lexus or Acura. Unfortunately, something terrible happened to both of these prestige brands between the Clinton era and the modern day.

They became boring, generic, and a bit old fogey in their market reach. These days a middle-aged person generally does not aspire to own a Lexus or an Acura. If they have put in their dues of driving the family car, they are looking for that thrill. As is the younger guy who is not quite ready to settle down, but is finally making the big bucks.

These folks, if they are willing to spend their money, often want the anti-Toyota. The anti-Honda. The car that is more involving to drive… but… with this desire also comes a concern.

These buyers also want a car that is reliable and doesn’t represent a potential black hole in their annual budget. Like everyone else, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Two potential options are out there. The first is testing out a sporty prestige brand. An Audi. A BMW. A sports oriented car that is heavily marketed as a lease vehicle and can provide them with that extra thrill that they certainly won’t get with another Camry or Accord.

My brother Paul is the poster child for this. Two new Toyotas and one new Honda for the family over the last 15 years. The oldest child is about to go to college. The money is in the bank. The sacrifice of ‘fun driving’ for ‘family driving’ has already been made.

Did he want another Toyota or Honda? No, Paul and his wife wanted something different. Something that was not already driven by their senior citizen parents. They bought a 2012 Audi A6 and a CPO Audi A4.

The second option is to get the fun affordable car. Not too long ago fun usually meant two doors and a possible slight engine and suspension upgrade over the plain four door model. This is one of the main reasons why the Toyota Camry remained so dominant during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Fun and four doors were few and far between.

These days an affordable four door model can be just as sporty without the past sacrifice at the altar of practicality. A car with an Accent, a Soul, a good Fit, or a Focus, can be every bit as enjoyable to drive as a Veloster, a Forte, a Civic, or dare I say it… a Mustang.

Whether prestigious or plain named, a slew of buyers want the option to buy a fun car that does not share the same emblem of the car that they have been driving ever since the kids were little. Or ever since they were struggling to get established.

It’s not because they are unhappy with that reliable car. Sometimes folks just want something that is ‘not’ what they have been driving. Even if it has been a good car.

I can see Scion becoming the fun side of Toyota. The sporty side of a company that can already register millions in annual sales by harvesting the fertile fields of those seeking the ‘family car’, the ‘retiree car’, the ‘keep my ownership costs low’ car.

Toyota is already losing that buyer who picks the Altima over the Camry. The Mazda 3 and Fiat 500, over a Matrix or a Corolla. The reality is that by attracting a more conservative and older audience, you sometimes have to make compromises in design and interior ergonomics that make a car less appealing to those seeking fun and sport. Or even just simply something different.

There is still a gaping void of ‘fun’ between $15,000 and $35,000 that Scion could define as their specific market. I have no doubt that a car with the Toyota halo of reliability, coupled with sharp looks and exceptional handling, could lead to a new era of success for Scion.

The question is whether Toyota will invest in a Scion worthy of that reputation. To me the FR-S is one of those models. Should there be others?

 

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86 Comments on “Why Scion Matters...”


  • avatar
    Pch101

    Scion isn’t a bona fide brand, but a sub-brand that was intended to bring younger buyers into Toyota dealerships and to provide an opportunity to experiment with sales techniques that have not been typical in the US, such as fixed price selling.

    Scion was meant to be a replacement for the Toyota Echo, which was supposed to appeal to young buyers but instead skewed heavily to seniors. As it turns out, Scion buyers are younger than average, so that part of it worked out fine.

    The problem is with the resulting volumes, which are low. There does seem to be a mission creep problem — the lineup should be smaller than it currently is, and it didn’t really need a sports car.

    Nonetheless, analyzing it as a brand is misguided. Ultimately, TMC should be focusing on turning Scion buyers into Toyota buyers as they grow older and their needs change. You should judge its success or failure by its ability to keep Scion buyers in the TMC fold and preventing those buyers from becoming conquests by other manufacturers.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    The Scino tC is one of those unexplainable phenomena. In terms of styling it is completely boring and unremarkable(both generations). The performance is likewise unremarkable. Yet it attracts the most young buyers in the industry.

    Scion’s biggest mistake is putting out all these ‘americanized’ products. They should have stuck with the quirky japanese market products. In Japan, Toyota produced a series of avant garde design cars under the Will brand. The Will Vi and the Will Cypher were unlike any other cars ever made. These were designer cars for the commuters. Scion should have gone that route.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Dunno, the success of the tC makes some sense. Reasonably powerful, pretty affordable, roomy inside, nifty panoramic sunroof, powerful stereo, hatchback that will swallow a lot. Checks a lot of boxes for people considering a Civic coupe but want some extra power and don’t care about steering feel.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Worked for my (then…at time of purchase last year) 46-year old wife. It’s not the fastest, sharpest handling (insert measurable here), but one test drive, and she loved it. Enough power to keep up in traffic, loves the style and the features (stereo and sunroof). We are, however, reasonably disappointed in the quality of the interior bits (door panels, dash)…pretty thin and easily scratched. But, she looks good driving it and enjoys the handling/ride trade-off…so I’m a happy husband (and THAT is all that matters!)!

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      Is it really attracting young buyers? I remember reading somewhere that Scion’s entire plan backfired (the plan for attracting young buyers) because the average buyer was close to 50 who wanted to get a cheap Toyota that was made in Japan and is high quality.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    The iQ is also good as a Scion.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    “…Underpowered compact cars that look like SUV’s in 2012 sell about as well as two-seater cars that look like frogs”

    Yet somehow compact four door quasi-SUV that look like frogs did sell pretty well (Nissan Juke). Go figure.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    The 2nd Generation xB is a really good taxi. I prefer it over a Crown Victoria (even LWB), Ford Escape or Prius – the other common taxis in my area.

    The xB and xD are not bad, just poorly executed. Nissan out Scioned Scion with the Cube, and the Kia Soul is also better.

    The tC is the biggest joke. An xB with a coupe body. Just get an xB.

    The FR-S is the only car that lives up to the brand’s experimental pretext.

    Something experimental that Scion should do is build a FWD unibody compact pickup off the xB. I think this has even been hinted at.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      They actually did build a tiny pickup off of the old xB in Japan.

      http://cdn.mkimg.carview.co.jp/minkara/photo/000/002/678/505/2678505/p1.jpg

      Kind of a goofball car. In other words- precisely the direction Scion should have taken- offbeat and goofball. Everything tht Toyota is not.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The iQ is another (somewhat better) Smart car and will not be any more successful. The xD is overlooked among subcompact shoppers. The “bigger, better” xB lacks the charm of the original. And as an owner of an ’06 Tc, I cringe at the hideous distortion to what was a beautifully styled car that makes me think of a 2-door IS250, as well as the general cheapening of the interior.
    It’s time to end the Scion experiment. The brand was never really needed in the first place and what success stories they had were ruined. At least killing the brand will come at little cost in money or jobs since there are no freestanding Scion dealers. The only thing the Toyota dealers are out is the cost of the extra signage.

  • avatar
    carve

    Great idea- fill in niches and offer uncompromised, bold, eye-catching concept-car-esque styling, even if it compromises practicality. Give Toyota a chance to be bold without scaring away the old people.

    Unique configurations, such as the compact pickup mentioned above, would be interesting. Hell- make it a convertible while you’re at it. Perhaps a sporty soft-roader inspired by a dune-buggy, like the Ford Splash concept of the late 80’s http://www.carstyling.ru/resources/concept/88ford_splash_1.jpg

    Maybe even a unibody convertible SUV, as that market has been vacant for a long time (Geo Tracker, Isuzu Amigo, Dahitsu Rocky). Market all of ‘em to outdoors enthusiasts, perhaps with integrated gear-lockers and provisions for hauling (and hiding/securing) mountain bikes, kayaks, and skis. Offer ‘em in AWD and steal some Subaru sales. Perhaps a sporty soft-roader inspired by a dune-buggy. Lets see an FRS turned backwards and with a turbo as a true budget-boxster fighter, with 55% of the weight in the rear and 275 HP. It’d be like a budget exotic.

    They could maybe even experiment with unique configurations. I’d be interested in seeing, say, an inline 4 laid on it’s side to provide the low CG of a boxer. In the era of bedestrian impact standards, this could be a way to give small cars far better proportions, like the FRS.

    Have the base models of these cars really stripped down, light weight, simple, and cheap.

    And give them REAL NAMES, like Hyundai does. Veloster is a cool sounding name, and a car like that would fit in well for this concept of Scion.

  • avatar

    If Toyonda owners are getting bored with their blandmobiles, this could be an opportunity for the US based automakers.

  • avatar
    cyberc9000

    The problem with Scion is that it has no soul, no depth. Its birth was the ultimate expression of cynicism with relation to the American consumer: Toyota launched an entire brand based around the hope that teenagers would think “WOW I CAN GET LED LIGHTS IN MY CUPHOLDERS!”, and not a whole lot else.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My xB1 has been an exceptional car since I bought it new in 05, but they totally lost the script with the xB2 in 08. Nothing they have interests me today.

    Even the FR-S uses a Subaru boxer engine. I know all about low CG, etc, etc, but Scion should have put a solid Toyota engine in that car.

    It will be a long time before Scion wins my business again.

    • 0 avatar
      Synchromesh

      What’s the problem with the boxer engine? I have one in my Subaru and it’s just fine. In fact, it warms up far faster than any of the Honda inline-4s I owned.

      I’ve driven a BRZ and the flat-4 was fine there too. A little underpowered but that’s not the engine’s fault.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      The problem is they’ve had plenty of time to fix the problems on the car.

      4 speed auto? Still there.
      Poor fuel mileage? Still there.

      The only update I’ve seen is the movement of the 1 reverse light up into the tail-lights.

      They could have pulled a Kia Soul and dropped in a 6 speed auto and did other small but “oh that’s much better” updates.

  • avatar
    jimble

    There’s a third alternative to the prestige and fun/affordable car options, which is being chosen by an increasing number of affluent Americans: spend your money on a house or condo in an expensive, closer-in neighborhood where you don’t need to drive very much, and either keep your old car longer or ditch it completely.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    The tc is one of those cars that is boring, but something that really is not provided for in the industry. However, the new one is getting too expensive for its own good. The Veloster really is the perfect Scion: 17k for something funky and cheap to maintain with all the toys your could want. While the old TC was a good value proposition, the new one sits too close to better cars that will be out (including the new veloster turbo).

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’m in Lang’s target demographic, the empty nesters. An edgy, fun design with Toyota reliability sounds great to me. We used to call those “Hondas”.

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    Toyota should send the FR-S the WRC way, create some racing credibility. Maybe a Pikes Peak FR-S, or something like that.

    They should explore the FR-S with a convertible version, maybe a shooting brake. Then a hot hatch, a sportier version of the Prius C.

    Scion should focus on cheap, no-frills sporty cars. What they really need is not a key-car-lookalike, but a Mk.II Golf of some sort.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    When the xB became the xtraBloated, I lost any interest in the Scion “brand”. But then I’m a somewhat old fogey. I prefer the first-gen xB’s cleaner lines to the asymmetrical Cube, and wish there was a boxy wagon sized between it and the Flex. With a diesel and optional stick and DSG of course!

  • avatar
    raded

    The first-gen xB was a great car. The FR-S fills a gaping hole in the market. The iQ is funky and worthy of the Scion badge.

    The second-gen xB is fine, but it isn’t alone in the suitcase on wheels segment any more and doesn’t have the mpg numbers to really attract people in the market for a <$20,000 people mover with a relatively underpowered engine and an outdated 4 speed automatic. If you're looking for a suitcase on wheels in 2012, the Kia Soul is the only way to go. Mazda3 and Focus offer hatchback utility and significantly more efficient powertrains at a slightly higher price.

    There's just too many options in the segments Scion is competing for them to sell well. tC, xB, or xD are all middle of the pack at best in their segments. The iQ is a great car and the FR-S is in an all but empty segment but neither of them will ever be volume sellers.

    I’d love to see Scion bring more Japanese weirdness into the US market, volume be damned.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      The Kia Soul is surprisingly roomy inside, and this is coming from a guy who’s 6’5.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        Bingo! Finding out that it’s based loosely on the Rio in one way shape or form I’ve found it a really good car for what it does. The 2012 model just wipes the xB off the map.

        28 MPG highway and less power than the Soul, Scion? Really?

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Scion hooked me, way back in ’03, when I was working at NAIAS and saw the xB before most Americans. It wasn’t until ’09 that I got around to getting the original xB. It’s a great around-town car, not so much on the highway. Since I don’t get out of town much, it suits 95% of my needs while being reliable and getting great MPG.

    Now for 2014, Scion is dropping the xB2 and xD. There will be 3 models left:

    iQ: another micro-car that I might like if it was cheaper and had a clutch – no sale

    tC: The car that should really be called Celica, and I don’t care for Celicas.

    FR-S: for the same dough, I’ll have a Miata PRHT, thanks.

    Nothing here to see, folks. Move along.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      No, the FR-S should have been the Celica. But not while using a Subaru engine.

      • 0 avatar
        Vyk

        The majority of Celicas made were FWD* inline-4 liftbacks. The tC is all of those things and the FR-S is none of those things. Also bear in mind that the FT-86 was originally intended to be a reincarnation of the AE-86; in other words, Toyota intended it to be a modern incarnation of a RWD Corolla/Sprinter and not of a RWD Celica. I feel the same as eggsalad, and have thought from the first time I saw one that the tC was a Celica by another name.

        *They stopped making RWD Celicas in 1985. Celicas were RWD for their first 15 years and FWD for the remaining 21. In terms of years or total production, the “typical” Celica was a FWD car.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I see your point, the Celica was FWD longer than it was RWD. But the AE86 was only RWD because it was built on the cusp of Toyota switching over thier platforms. It continued on, as the Corolla GTS coupe, as a FWD car as well. The entire FT-86 thing was more marketing ploy than anything.

        Looking at the cars historically, the AE86 was a small, plain looking, basic car, it was 2-dr Corolla. The Celica was always the stylish one, the looker. The FRS is much too stylish to be a true AE86, it is clearly more the spiritual successor to the Celica. And before you throw out the tC, it isnt stylish. If anything, it looks more like the original AE86 than the Celica.

        If I ran Toyota, the FRS would be the new Celica, then the platform would be used in a more basic form for a 2-dr, 4-dr, and 2-dr hatchback Corolla, complete with RWD. Maybe a wagon too for the B&B die-hards out there. Laugh if you want, but I bet they would sell like hotcakes. Actually, that would have been a good use for Scion, make it a true performance/sport brand for all thier cars, using the FRS to base an entire lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Oh yea, also the Celica has tons more name recognition than AE86.

      • 0 avatar
        Vyk

        “And before you throw out the tC, it isnt stylish. If anything, it looks more like the original AE86 than the Celica.”
        I’m not a fan of the refresh, but I think the original tC is more stylish than the last-gen Celica (which, to this day, looks to me like they got bored about 2/3 down the length of the car and just slapped the back together) and possibly the one before it (I’m not a fan of the googly-eyes). I think we just need to agree that Toyota should stop fooling around, put a real engine in the FR-S, and call it a Supra. :)

        “Laugh if you want, but I bet they would sell like hotcakes.”
        I really wish you were right. Since I bought a RWD car for a DD late last year, anybody I’ve mentioned “I really wanted RWD” to has either looked completely bored or has asked, “But what will you drive during the winter?” A lot of the car-buying public has been thoroughly convinced that RWD is bad.

        “Actually, that would have been a good use for Scion, make it a true performance/sport brand for all thier cars, using the FRS to base an entire lineup.”
        I’ve felt that way about a lot of failed brands. I still want to kick somebody at Ford for not doing, oh, ANYTHING with Mercury. I think automakers have a tendency to believe “we can’t base our brand around one concept (unless it’s luxury) because then we won’t be able to sell minivans/SUVs/CUVs/toasters with that brand!” (On a related note, has “let’s make this a brand for young buyers!” ever worked in the long run?)

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Styling will always be somewhat subjective, so there isnt a point in arguing about it. I happen to like the last-gen Celica, but I owned one so I may be more biased. However, I remember how much of a splash they made when they first came out, and even 8-10 yrs later that car still attracted attention and looks from people who are not car people. Those long swept back headlights were copied by everyone to this day, and the interior was terrific. The tC is not a bad looking car, its just very generic, where the last-gen Celica was more polarizing and at least made a statement. Completely agreed on the bugeyed Celica though, that one was a loser all around! I did like the ones before that though, with the round organic shape, pop-up lights and swelled fenders.

        As for my pie-in-the-sky dream about a full line of RWD cars, agreed, most buyers dont give a rats butt about RWD vs FWD. Thats why we have no shortage of FWD cars available out there. But BMW doesnt have any problem moving metal and attracting buyers with RWD, so I dont think it would hurt the sales any, IF it was marketed properly. Everyone markets thier cars to compete for the Camry/Civic crowd, and why not, thats a big crowd. But for a new unproven brand, why choose it over an established one? If they marketed thier product on cheap performance and drive quality, that would attract enthusiasts. And then people who want to appear to be enthusiasts would buy the cars as well. Then before you know it, the brand becomes desirable, like iPhones or sushi. Not because its better, but because its cool. And that WOULD attract younger buyers, without actually targeting them.

        And yes, I agree, that same tack could have been used for lots of brands. Maybe not Mercury though, that one was pretty deep into the old people stigma already. :) But Pontiac? Saturn? Fiat could be doing that now, or using Alfa or Lancia. But no, everyone tried to take on Honda and Toyota directly, and even Toyota took on Toyota directly with its own brand.

      • 0 avatar
        Vyk

        I was ready to let this thread die, but you hit on a pet peeve of mine. “Those long swept back headlights were copied by everyone to this day.” Absurd.

        The most obviously similar headlights out there would be the Focus. “Ah,” you might say, “first model year for the Focus is 2000, first model year for the Celica is 1999!” That’s only true in the US. The Focus went on sale in Europe in July 1998 as a 1999 model. The first glimpse of what would become the ’99 Celica was the XYR concept in January 1999, and the Celica (with different bumpers) began production in July ’99. I might also mention the Ford/Mercury Cougar (launch July ’98, on sale December ’98), the Peugeot 206 (’98), the Ford Puma (’97), the Mercury MC4 concept (July ’97), and particularly the Peugeot Asphalte concept (’96).

        Simply put, at best Toyota followed what they saw as an emerging trend in automotive design (which, as you pointed out, is in fact the way design has gone). In no way can they be considered the origin of the pointed headlight that would become common–neither first in concept nor first in production.

        (Full disclosure: those would be the headlights of my ’01 Cougar in my avatar.)

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @vyk,

        The Cougar headlights dont sweep back along the fender lines like the Celica, neither does the Focus. The Focus/Cougar/Ka/Puma all were designed with Ford’s New Edge design, more triangular in shape, but otherwise just sleeker Euro style headlights that were wider than they were long. The Celica headlights are much longer than they are wide, and you can clearly see how lots of new cars are taking the lights to that extreme, like Hyundai. It is hard to appreciate just how long those lights were until you take them off the car.

        Now I admit I had to Google the Peugeot references since we dont have them in the US. I can see making a minor case for the 206 and definitely for the Asphalte concept car. But can you really claim that some obscure French concept car had as much influence on future designers as a mainstream Toyota product? Even the 206 lights were not as pronounced. And really, if the car was in production in ’99, it was being designed much earlier, at the very least the guys designing each of those cars probably got thier influence from the same place… the Asphalte perhaps?

      • 0 avatar
        Vyk

        I’m not seeing the “sweep along the fender lines” distinction between the Focus and Celica. Both terminate with a rounded point, outboard edge lying slightly into the fender, although the crease that continues up the fender on the Focus lies just outboard the outer curve of the headlight for its entire length, while the Celica’s extends from just inboard the headlight. The outboard lower corner does lie about 30 degrees behind the inboard lower corner on the Focus and 45 degrees behind on the Celica, but in both cases they follow the line of the front bumper and, due to the wider width of the Focus light, appear similar from the side. You could argue that the Celica is more similar to modern cars in that it cuts into the combined bumper/grille assembly, while the 206 and New Edge cars lie above the separation between bumper and grille, but the combined bumper and grille was also in common use well before the ’99 Celica (on Mitsubishis, Hondas, Fords, Saturns, and of course the ’93 Celica).

        The design evolution of New Edge is clear to me, and I absolutely agree with you on the Cougar, Ka, and Puma in terms of their origin and orientation being a slow change from wraparound headlight designs already in common use; you can even more clearly see a similar evolution in the Peugeot 406->306(facelift)->206. However, I assert that modern cars more closely follow language like the Cougar or Puma than language like the Celica. You note that the Celica headlights are much longer than they are wide; beyond that, I see a clear distinction between them and every other car mentioned (including the Asphalte), in that the Celica’s light elements are vertically rather than diagonally or horizontally arranged. The height > 2 x width and vertical arrangement are, to me, hallmarks of the Celica design compared to the other cars mentioned. (Both the Focus and Puma headlights are approximately as tall as they are wide; clearly the Celica headlights are distinguished from them by being much longer than they are wide, as you noted.)

        You explicitly mention Hyundai; which Hyundai has headlights that are either vertically-stacked or considerably taller than they are wide? The Sonata comes closest, appearing approximately triangular from the front, but extending diagonally around the car and ending in a reflector, and having height and width roughly equal– very similar to the Puma and dissimilar from the Celica.

        Likewise, no current Toyota appears to meet the criteria either. On the contrary, several Toyotas (eg the Corolla) use a three-horizontal layout similar to the Cougar, as do many other cars. The 2012 Acura TSX even has a similar inboard reflector (high beam), middle projector (low beam), outboard signal layout to that of the ’01-’02 Cougar.

        I am not in any way claiming that the ’99-’06 Celica was not striking. Also, your emphasis on the length vs width of the Celica headlight, and my subsequent appreciation of the vertical arrangement of the light elements, does bring me to feel the Celica is less derivative than I had previously felt. However, modern cars mostly use a horizontal or diagonal layout of elements, terminating in a marker light–the Celica needs a separate side marker light exactly because its vertical layout is unlike the horizontal or diagonal layout that is now widespread.

        edit: wow, wall of text, sorry. Hopefully I succeeded in being exhaustive without also being exhausting.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        The 350Z looks a lot like a Celica in front and in overall shape, especially the Nismo version with the extended nose. I think its lights are stacked as well. To a lesser extent certain generations of Altima used the same design. The current Sonata, Elantra and Veloster have a similar swept back appearance as well, as does the Ford Fiesta.

        But I will concede that most of these cars do not carry over the stacked light look, most are side by side. But the style, pulling the lights back over to the top of the front wheels, cutting into the hood and making it more trianglular, thats more what I am talking about. If you look at the Celica, the sides of the hood do not meet the fender except at the very top for less than a third of the hood length.

        I am not denying that it was a style that was coming regardless of what Toyota did with the Celica. But they were ONE OF THE FIRST to put it out there to such an extreme… Does that help?!? :)

  • avatar
    grzydj

    If Scion releases a much rumored RAV4 based pickup, it might be something I’d consider purchasing as a replacement for my increasingly annoying Impreza.

    Scion is tight lipped on if it is going to become a reality or not, but apparently production has shifted at one of the RAV4 assembly plants for a yet unnamed vehicle built on the same platform.

    • 0 avatar
      Viquitor

      I’d go for it.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        Pickuptrucks.com says it may be a Scion.

        http://news.pickuptrucks.com/2011/08/report-scion-pickup-coming-in-2014-based-on-toyota-a-bat-concept.html

        The rumor of this vehicle being produced has been around about as long as rumors of the Toyota FJ Cruiser were before it finally went into production. I think it’d be a neat market for Scion to get into.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Huh? A compact pick-up built for light duty and a Toyota? The market is wide open.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Except that what they’re pitching is not really a “pickup” in the generally accepted sense of the term. It’s more like a Ridgeline or Baja: an SUV/Wagon with an open rather than closed cargo area, and the open area being a relatively small percentage of the total footprint.

        When I think of a car-based light pickup, I envision someting closer to the El Ranchero/Subaru Brat end of things. With a low bed floor and liftover height being paramount.

  • avatar
    tuffjuff

    Unless I’m taking the article too literally (I can never tell, with TTAC’s writing style), I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my Focus much more than the Forte I owned, especially the driving dynamics. Then again, for 35% more more you *should* get 35% more car.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Scion’s original success was the novelty of it. Once Kia and Nissan hopped on the boxy & cheap bandwagon, it would have been difficult for even the original xB to maintain market share.

    I’m still amazed that Scion lost it so quickly though. xB1 was loved. xB2 was reviled by its original fanbase but still a very practical and unique car and one heck of a good deal. Now it’s gone. Kia Soul ate it alive, beat it on every selling point. I doubt Scion expected that.

    The tC is worthwhile; it has unique features and isn’t a bad alternative to a Civic or Forte coupe.

    I don’t know what you do if you are Scion. The market & competition aren’t static, so keeping the magic formula going is really hard.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Scion is a very passionate issue for their owners. Most owners love them.

    Scion as a sub-brand and test bed mission is pretty much a failure. Scion was born out of the idea of one and done. The not very loved xA got the one and done treatment, the xB and tC did not. The xB went massively backwards in its Gen II form most devotees would say (I personally disagree but it’s a matter of taste) the tC got a bit better.

    But here is the thing that will kill Scion, and why it is already a dead brand walking.

    The Yen.

    Scion is a value brand with no haggle pricing. The Yen is killing Japanese manufacturing. The US dollar is weak. As long as this continues I have a hard time believing that Scion, if it were a stand alone unit, with its own stand alone P&L is turning a profit.

    When the iQ came out with a $16K sticker there was a lot of WTF reaction. Toyota would probably love to price it at $12K or $13K – they can’t – the Yen vs USD kills the ability. Ditto with people going WTF on the FR-S base price and Toyota making it crystal clear, no turbo, no convertible, too expensive. Too expensive? Or not profitable in the current market (which is also – too expensive).

    Toyota is going to need Scion production to the US, which opens up a whole different can of worms as the cars are low volume.

    For the years of hype, for the years of announcement, planning, tweaking, and hand wringing, Toyota did a really bad job on the FR-S roll out. No parts in the dealer networks. Service techs not trained yet on the cars. Water in the tail lights. Christmas tree dashboards due to bad engine sensors and failing ECMs (ironically sourced from Delphi, ain’t globalization a kick in the ass). A couple of very high profile crank shaft failures on the Scion community websites (debate away if it was tech, owner, or bad engine fault). And rough idle issues.

    Now the faithful say, give Scion a break, it’s a new product, there are going to be kinks.

    Hey – that’s a General freakin’ Motors excuse. That is not a Toyota excuse. Clearly the channel wasn’t ready (dealers, parts, service) and clearly the cars for all the hand wringing weren’t perfectly ready either. This for a vehicle hyped for years.

    This is now how you run a product launch for a brand you care about. Clearly Toyota cares a little about Scion, the FR-S is called a Scion and not a Toyota. But when you go against every fiber of your branding being, to prop up a brand circling the drain, with a product that is about 95% baked.

    Well, suddenly, Plymouth, Mercury, Saturn, Pontiac, AMC, Geo, start coming to mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Viquitor

      The FR-S launch problems tell a lot more about Toyota’s own quality and reliability issues than a possible neglective attitute towards Scion. That’s because the FR-S is a Scion only in the US – to the rest of us it’s a Toyota, the FT-86.

      But I do see your point.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        So after Toyota and Subaru arguing over who actually created/made the car, I wonder who will be quick to step back from that claim with all these issues cropping up? ;)

  • avatar
    carguy

    Regardless of the current lineup, the question of Scion survival hinges entirely on Toyota’s vision for them. If they invest in them and take some risks then the brand will thrive. If they churn out appliances and market them as funky then the brand will die.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I respectfully disagree completely. The only reason those “example” consumers you referenced want to “change brands” is because the current crop of Toyotas and Hondas are blandmobiles with none of the fun and innovation that those brands used to have. If they had decent product then they wouldnt need a shiny new “brand” focused on marketing ploys and colored neon interior trim to bring in customers.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    There is sometimes an effort to save a brand by improving or at least modernizing the product, but often it comes too late. The damage is already done. This happened to Pontiac (not saved by Solstice and G8) and Saturn (not saved by Opels). This could be true of Scion.

    Chrysler’s badge engineering was so shameless that it’s no wonder Plymouth went away. There was nothing to differentiate it from the other two brands. This is not true of Scion.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Opels were what killed Saturn. Saturn appealed to a very narrow group and when they started adding models it was at the expense of the others so instead of selling not quite enough of one model to make it profitable they went to selling the same amount spread between a number of models making it even less profitable.

  • avatar

    Everyone seems to forget that rank and file staff and Toyota dealership owners fought like crazy to bury Scion because of its pricing. Toyota should’ve set up Scion stores outside of control of the current coupon-clipping scum. When I wanted to buy a tC, there was not one for test drive in a city with a million people. NOT ONE. Scion is basically completely sabotaged.

    No disagreement with all the faults of the product. However, even mediocre product can pull at least mediocre sales if priced right and someone is willing to sell it.

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    As a long-time Toyota fan, I walked out of the Scion/Toyota dealership with my girlfriend and told her to get an Elantra.

    Have not regretted that at all.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    I’m like your brother, Mr. Lang. I’ve shuttled children to pre, elementary, middle, and high school for nearly twenty years in various sensible (and not so sensible) vehicles, and as they go off to start their adult lives, I am reviewing what cars my wife and I would like to own for the next decade. I want one comfortable long-distance cruiser with luxurious appointments (but without the snobiness and fusiness of the traditional luxury brands), and I want one “fun” car that I can take to Wal-Mart but still canyon carve on pleasant Sunday afternoons. There are lots of vehicles that can do that, from Volkswagens to Subarus to Fords. I do believe that Scion can turn their collective rears around and provide that not-quite-a-Toyota-but-still-youthful niche with the right product set. Everyone that has tried to sell specific cars to the youth segment has failed in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. Honda Elements and Scion xBs are being driven by Baby Boomer, and so are Kia Souls. It’s all about perception — if the car can avoid being considered stuffy and pretentious (I’m looking at you, BMW) but still provide a sense of youthful exuberance and a modicum of utility, then the Scion brand can be successful and add to the overall portfolio of Toyota.

    Easier said than done, of course.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    “…Toyota and Honda are facing a market exodus … Surprised that made it past the filters.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    Here in Oz we don’t have the Scion brand. We see many of these models including the FR-S but they sell as Toyotas. I actually thought that Scion was just a rebranding of the Daihatsu models when Toyota took them over. I can understand creating a new brand and pretending it is different when you are aiming upmarket and do not have the cars with which to compete unlike Hyundai, but why would you create a new brand to go downmarket? I think, “Only in America”

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      I’ve heard rumors that Scion might import another, more first gen like xB to the US based on a Daihatsu (that’s who!) platform. It’ll be more boxy and JDMlike than the current bloated xB.

    • 0 avatar

      The reason was that the humiliating and dehumanizing experience of haggling for a car was recognized as a major impediment to sales. Everyone puts up with it, but very few adapt to it (although I saw some spirited defence of the existing system in TTAC comments). Toyota understood that for NEW buyers, who haven’t been through the rings of car-buying hell before, the barrier was too high. They wanted to create an Apple Store of cars. Did not quite succeed though.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        It didn’t work because of 2 reasons:

        1. The internet. I got 3 quotes for mine from different dealers. I took the lowest to the closer dealer to my house and they caved and went a few hundred lower than that. (Which was well below MSRP).

        2. Just about everyone has a friends friend or dads brothers cousins uncles stepfather that has bought numerous cars before and will lend advise on how to deal with the “evil” car salesmen/women.

      • 0 avatar
        Sky_Render

        “Dehumanizing”? In my case, the only person who gets dehumanized when I buy a car is the dealer. But then again, I’m a shrewd, not-very-nice negotiator.

      • 0 avatar
        Vyk

        Sky_Render, dehumanizing doesn’t necessarily mean degrading. The Internet is dehumanizing because it makes it easy to be a troll (words aren’t attached to a human, and it’s safe to be a delta-bravo to just words). If you’re dehumanizing the dealer, you’re doing it by first dehumanizing yourself enough to not consider him an equal. Put differently, do you negotiate the way you would with a (competent and likable) co-worker that you’re trying to work out a problem with?

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    But do you really need a whole separate brand for “fun” cars? Ford sells the Mustang and the Edge, Hyundai has the Genesis Coupe and the Tucson, Mazda sells the MX-5 and the CX-9, Chevrolet has the Camaro and Corvette and the Equinox, etc.

    Going back a few years, Toyota used to have absolutely no trouble combining boring practicality and fun in the same showroom and with the same nameplate. The Supra, Celica, and MR2 were all sitting there right next to the Cressidas and Camrys.

    It seems to me that there are a lot of advantages to having as few brands as possible, in that you can better focus your marketing and development budgets and operate with leaner staff.

    I don’t see any reason why Scion’s current product line couldn’t just be sold with the Toyota badge and have their marketing materials send the message that they’re intended for a different audience than the people shopping for Siennas. They did it once, it worked, every other automaker still does it, and it works. Toyota doesn’t need Scion.

  • avatar
    ny27east

    I think Toyota created Scion in a pretty smart way – not as standalone stores, instead just using part of existing Toyota stores.

    I just purchased a 2012 tC, I like it a lot. Wanted a good looking (to me anyway) 2-door with lots of equipment for $20k. Had a 2005 tC as well, enjoyed that as well, got good money from the dealer when I traded it in. I’m not their target customer – I’m in my late 40’s.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Ok, then are you saying that you wouldnt have purchased a tC (twice) if it was sold at existing Toyota stores as a Celica instead? Or even as a Toyota tC?

      How exactly did Toyota starting up a entire brand, using marketing clearly aimed at 16-24yr olds, offering dealer-added “customizations” that I am willing to bet you didn’t purchase, and selling them in the same building as the other Toyotas sway you to buy that car?

      From what I see, you are the perfect example of why Scion is pointless.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Sales are up, not an exodus, but they do need to get with the times and pull forward a new Corolla and Yaris.

    Don’t expect Toyota/Honda to sit like GM did.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    Gen2 XB owner here.

    Boomer who saw the virtues of: something easy to park, powerful enough to get out of its own way, lots of room inside (great for Costco runs, 2 buttons to flip the seats down and you’re ready), high enough to see out of. Not blisteringly fast, but this made-in-Japan car has given us NO problems in 3 years of ownership.

    C4C put 3500 big ones on the hood and I got rid of a ’96 Panther that was ready for its 3rd heater core and new front suspension.

    Brand new XB2 was 17,5xx out the door.

    Yes, it’s built to a price point.
    Yes, the interior is spartan.
    Yes, it’s got a pronounced intake honk at WOT.

    And I DO like the instruments on the dash. It works for pilots, doesn’t it?

    A refresh should have been: nicer interior finishes & instrument panel, real armrests on the front seats, & some sound deadening.

    But I had the need to rent a new Corolla for a week while my other car was in the shop for a deer strike, and I felt pretty vulnerable in that wheezy, little, sitting-on-the-ground, cramped car.

    Actual measured mileage on my 60 mile commute with the Corolla was 31–not as great as I had hoped.

    So, bottom line I was looking forward to getting back in the XB again. I’ll gladly trade away a few MPG to get the visiblilty and spunk it delivers.

    No, I’m not the target demographic for this car, or the entire division for that matter.

    Scion’s mistake was pitching a family of cars to a generation of people who have been hit hard with 2 recessions in 10 years, have lots of college debt,and don’t look at the automobile the way previous generations did. It’s just not on their radar to run out and spend that kind of money on a depreciating asset. I can’t blame them at all. I didn’t have that kind of money to burn in my 20’s either; That’s why I drove sub-2000 dollar cars and restored some of them from scratch at times.

  • avatar
    ny27east

    mnm – I *probably* would have bought the tC if it were called a Toyota “Celica” or “tC” – but maybe not as if it were sold as a Toyota it *probably* would have been priced higher.

    And you are correct: No, I did not purchase any ‘extras’ at the dealer where I purchased the car. I *did* however add a few extras – fog lights, auto dim mirror, cargo cover – from a dealer parts dept that sells these items for a good discount (and installed them myself).

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      You are making assumptions and missing the point. Scion is Toyota. There is no reason why Toyota couldnt sell the exact same product at the exact same price point. It doesnt NEED a Scion badge to make prices magically cheaper.

      The point is, the Scion brand was created to attract a younger demographic by using Mad Tyte Yo marketing to cash in on the Fast and Furious tuner craze that Honda had owned for years. Problem is, by the time they got it to market that craze had fizzled, and we all know that Gen-Y marketing doesnt work for crap. Some of the product was decent, some of it was not, the good stuff sold, the junk didn’t, and the people saw through it and bought it because the price point was right and everyone knew that they were actually purchasing a Toyota.

      So why bother with the Scion branding? People want to buy a relatively inexpensive, well made, reliable Toyota that looks cool and sporty. Just make it.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    “I can see Scion becoming the fun side of Toyota.”

    Wasn’t that the original purpose of Scion? And more to the point, isn’t it what Scion has forgotten how to do?

    Scion is starting to look like Saturn.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    “The Opels were what killed Saturn. ”

    The joke called Ion is what killed Saturn. The Opels were simply bandaids.

    • 0 avatar
      Vyk

      The L-Series (Opel Vectra) predates the Ion by three model years. I’ve owned an SL1 and an L200 and a friend owned an Ion–the Ion is MUCH more of a Saturn than the L200 is.

      Want an example? Try to stick a magnet to the rear quarter panel of each of them. Which panel is most likely to be hit by a shopping cart and thus the most important panel on the car to be plastic (if you aren’t just doing it as a marketing ploy)?

      Here’s another demonstration: drive all three. The S is chintzy, but strangely likeable. The Ion is like me in high school–it’s not particularly athletic or attractive, but it thinks it is. The L is mind-numbingly boring; it makes Mercury Sables look enticing and rambunctious. Seriously, our L200 is what made my wife realize that she liked more about cars than getting from point A to point B. (And no, the L300 isn’t any better–it just changes from “generic I4 sedan” to “generic V6 sedan”.)

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Toyota and Honda economy cars make CR’s Top Five to Avoid”? Who would of thunk it!

    http://news.consumerreports.org/

  • avatar

    I think making Scion the “fun” face of Toyota makes a lot of sense. I see the FR-S as a reborn Celica / Supra hybrid. That said, there’s a complete lack of identity to their current line up. Currently, their models are:

    iQ: city run about
    xD: no one knows what it’s for
    xB: loyal following, but needs significant update
    tC: cheaper than FR-S, stylish coupe
    FR-S: tons of coverage, but none of it trickling to other models

    As a whole, the brand is all over the place. An xB owner is a very different person than a FR-S owner. If Scion is to have a cohesive demographic, they need to revisit what the brand stands for and tweak the lineup. Personally, I think the xD should be dropped because it’s not distinctive enough in the lineup. The xB should get a real overhaul rather than minor exterior tweaks. I’ve always liked the tC, but with the availability of the FR-S, I think it needs to be differentiated further (maybe an affordable convertible?)


    @rockyroadblog

  • avatar
    marti

    Mpg not better than a Venza and worse than a Mazda5 and equal to a Rondo . A 5 or 6 speeds auto or manual trany is missing in the Xb and could probably aids the mpg . Fix that and the notorious windshield prone to crack … but that is an entire another design problem .


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