By on April 1, 2013

A couple weeks back, Tetsuya Tada, father of the Scion FR-S, wistfully meditated on his desire to see more variants of the Scion FR-S, including a shooting brake. Rather than dismissive them as fantasy-bait for the enthusiast set, TTAC determined that there is probably a good business case for developing more variants of the Toyobaru platform. After all, you can’t spend billions on an all new platform and only build one low volume niche model off of it, right?

For anyone rooting for this scenario, there’s more encouraging news. Toyota executives are pondering an upward expansion of the Scion brand, and the FR-S could be the focal point of that initiative.

Automotive News is reporting that a group of executives at Toyota’s American arm are looking into the possibility of taking Scion upmarket. With the bottom end of the car market creeping upwards and German brands like Mercedes-Benz and Audi just nudging the $30,000 floor with products like the CLA and A3, there is a potential opening for Scion to slot a new product in the $25,000-$30,000 price bracket, just slightly above the current FR-S. Ironically, while Mercedes and Audi are opting for front-drive platforms, a potential Scion competitor using the FR-S platform would be rear-drive, and all the enthusiast cachet that goes with it.

Aside from the FR-S and the front-drive tC sports coupe, Scion’s product lineup is rather stale; aside from the qurky iQ, the xB and xD subcompacts are 6 years old, despite Scion’s promise of quick product turnaround times. When Scion first launched in 2002, entry-level cars could be had for around $13,000. Nowadays, a subcompact car can easily nudge $20,000. Toyota is also due to launch the next generation Corolla, which will feature more aggressive styling and be positioned at Generation Y customers.

While Toyota USA may be undecided on what to do with Scion, this development seems to shore up the notion that variants of the Toyobaru are on their way, in one form or another. Whether the United States will get them is one matter, but it would be difficult to think that a company as savvy as Toyota would go through all the effort and expense of developing a new vehicle platform without maximizing economies of scale. In the current marketplace of modular architectures and razor thin profit margins, it would be foolish for Toyota not to do so. In addition, it would be the rarest of events in the automotive world, one where the interests of both the bean counters and car guys have aligned.

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47 Comments on “Scion’s Upmarket Expansion Gives Hope For FR-S Spinoffs...”


  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Sounds like a good formula. Rear wheel drive.

    This car looks fantastic, I hope it goes a good as well.

    The ass end of a 350Z and the front end of what I would envisage a modern 280Z would look like.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    What are they going to power it with, pedal power for the kids? They need 2.0 Turbo power just to be a player and compete. Toyota and Honda are the only two major players that don’t offer almost 40 mpg and the torque that exceeds a V6.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Toyota and Honda do just as well, if not better than, their “40 MPG” competitors in the real world. Plus a 2.0T would not get anywhere near 40 MPG in an FR-S sedan, just like it doesn’t in a GTI, 328i, Sonata Turbo, etc. etc.

      I like the idea of making the most of this platform, but on the flip side I am not sure the market can bear it. I def agree that these will need more power- preferably through more cylinders ($30K for a flat 6, RWD and <3300lbs??????) or more displacement than turbocharging. But most people spending 30 large will want some brand cachet… sadly a FWD Audi/Benz does better in that regard. Hell you can get into a turbocharged RWD BMW now for ~$33K. I highly doubt the FR-S sedan will be able to do much better than that (though it will definitely come better equipped).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You must remember that Norm wants all cars to be Saab wagons, with turbo engines, which apparently get 40+mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        There is a substantial minority who consider a RWD Japanese car to have much more “brand cachet” than an econobox from brands known primarily for their lack of reliability. IF the sedan will have a much larger autobox share than the coupe, AND the auto programming needs to be conservative for EPA reasons, more torque is probably needed to impress those going for a test drive. For people who buy, and prefer, slick stickshifts, getting power through higher revs is much preferable to boring, laggy turbos. At least at anything below 9 10ths.

  • avatar
    dts187

    A near-luxury small sedan on this platform might do very well if styled and priced right.

    • 0 avatar
      Caboose

      Is this the platform for a new Lexus 200, then?

      Lexus is the right brand. A turbo flat-4 makes the right power in the WRX & STi. A small sedan or shooting brake on the FR-S platform could challenge the Bimmer 1 or 3.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Wasn’t the point of Scion to bring hip, trendy and affordable products to sell to teenagers as their first car so they’ll hopefully stay in the brand portfolio for point A to B appliances (Toyota is the #1 choice of AARP members)?

    So how is going up market (i.e. more expensive) going to help their cause?

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Teenagers can’t afford cars at today’s prices, unlike 10 years ago. And the average Scion buyer is in their mid-40′s now, up from mid 30′s when the brand launched.

      Outside of “hip” vanity items (think Beats headphones and ipods) it’s hard to sustain an expensive product with children as your target base. And cars aren’t cool to the younger set anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I think teenagers being an important segment of new car purchases based on their own wages was a thing of the ’60s. There were still quite a few buying themselves new cars in the ’80s, but they tended to be folks that were not college bound. Nowadays kids go to college rather than enter the job market and they are taking on all the debt they’ll ever need preparing for decades of underemployment.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        BS, teenagers couldn’t afford cars 10 years ago either. I was a teenager 10 years ago, making $9.50/hr, barely could afford a used car. And I didn’t spend money on crap like drinking.

    • 0 avatar
      chrishs2000

      They forgot to realize that most of today’s teenagers are far too lazy and umotivated to do things like “get a job” so that they can “buy a car”. It’s much easier to simply whine to (at?) mom and dad until they cave.

      That’s why my kids are my lawn and home maintenance slaves. At age 6 I started paying them in “money” that never existed. They have thousands of dollars of funny money. Like most good accounting schemes, I can simply set my own exchange rate when they want to cash in on a car, a trip to the mall or their college education. .

  • avatar
    mike978

    Wouldn`t you have expected Toyota to have firm plans on what they wanted this platform to under pin. Rather than make a, as you call it, low volume sports car and then after that has come out for a while then muse what to do as the platform ages. I expected better strategic planning from the big T.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Every article I read today is going to be like “Oh yeah, it’s April Fools, this is a joke”

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m sorry, but doesn’t an upwards expansion of Scion just make it… Toyota?

    • 0 avatar
      Spike_in_Brisbane

      That’s what it is here – Toyota GT86. The article seems to suggest the new model might not come to America. If it does not, it certainly won’t be a Scion!

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Stick a turbo in it and call it the Celica then stuff a V6 in it and call it the Supra. Generate an AWD, a hatchback and a convertible model to spread the platform out. Covers a wide range of price points. However the whole idea of the FR-S was an affordable sports car, so moving upmarket seems like the wrong way to go.

      My biggest issue with FR-S is the lack of a turbo from the get go. Sure its tossable, but not powerful enough. This car needs to compete with Camaros and Mustangs. As is its competing with Miatas and Minis.

      • 0 avatar
        chrishs2000

        The FR-S is a perfect car for what it was intended to be – a pure driver’s car.

        +1 on adding a turbo and calling it a Celica, or a V6 and calling it a Supra. It only makes sense to spread the development cost, and changing the engine and exterior/interior styling would have a tremendous effect on changing the vehicle’s character for only marginal development cost.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “After all, you can’t spend billions on an all new platform and only build one low volume niche model off of it, right?”

    GM does it all the time.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I would pawn my grandmother for a 4-door FR-S.

  • avatar
    dabradler

    I have a few problems with the Scion FR-S.

    First, someone who doesn’t follow cars has no clue what a Scion is, they assume it’s some additional Korean brand below Hyundai and Kia. Second is it doesn’t look like a rear wheel drive car, average person(girl) seeing a Scion FR-S is thinking 140hp front wheel drive Hyundai Tiburon competitor.

    My other big problem is it isn’t a Toyota and thus you don’t have easy access to all the Authorized Toyota Service centres. Only 1 scion dealership in my City and more than 20 Toyota dealership, I’d be much happier if it was under the Toyota name.

    • 0 avatar
      dts187

      I have a few problems with your post.

      First, Scion has pretty good brand recognition. I’ve never met a person who didn’t know it was a Toyota sub-brand. The fact that most Scion dealers are actually Toyota dealers drives that point home to most.

      My other big problem is, even though it doesn’t say “Toyota” you can have your Scion serviced and maintained at any Toyota dealer. Even complimentary service will be performed at Toyota-only dealers.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        This, thank you for saying what I was thinking while I read that.

        It’s not like the parts and mechanics are going to be foreign to a Toyo dealer and they won’t know what they are doing. Same as if you took your Lexus to a Toyota dealer, they wouldn’t be like “Oh no, we’re not touching that!”

        Also, the Tiburon has been discontinued for quite a while, I think most people know it.

        • 0 avatar
          chrishs2000

          Not to mention that you can probably take a Scion to any number of Ford/GM/Chrysler/whatever dealers, and I’m sure they’d be somehow be able to manage an oil change and basic inspection…

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    Curious to see Derek’s tone seems to have changed a bit regarding the Toyobaru – initially, he didn’t seem too impressed by the twins.

    Has time simply softened the disappointment, or have you found some redeeming qualities to an “underpowered” RWD sports car?
    If so, what qualities would those be?

    (on a side note, starting to see more of the twins in the Toronto area)

    • 0 avatar

      What I think about the car itself and the business case for expansion are two totally different things. I don’t think it’s as great as everyone says, but the fact that an auto maker can profitably expand its lineup of rear-drive sports cars is something worth celebrating.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I say get rid of the Scion brand and just concentrate on the Toyota core and you won’t have overlapping vehicles, start off with a micro car all the way to Avalon (which should be based on the GS platform (RWD) to really set it apart from Camry and throw in the 86GT in there. Including the convertible and a higher output option and use the same platform for a true sports sedan ala old 318I

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Honda should make a competitor to this and use the Ballad name or some such historical thing.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Theres already a slightly more upmarket FRS variant, its called a Subaru BRZ.

    That tiny bit about them Gen-Y’ing Corolla seems pointless, isn’t Scion supposed to be the brand for Gen-Y buyers? Who wants an uglier more cramped Corolla?

    As for FRS variants, I’m just waiting for a BRZ with the Legacys 300hp turbo, none of this shooting brake nonsense.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Over on ft86club, the youngsters debadge the Scion FR-S and replace with JDM Toyota 86 ones. As Derek has said many times, young people want higher end branded cars not little crap boxes, and the Scion brand itself is held in very low regard. It’s a North America only unit that was supposed to flog cheap boxes to kids who actually shudder at the grossness of the brand label. So old folks bought the original XB in droves, of course.

    Acura flogs cars branded Honda everywhere but North America and have fallen on their face, so to speak. So the message for Toyota is simple – any new car should be branded Toyota. Being a car company, they probably won’t follow logic and will incorrectly opt for the Scion route. Like Infiniti following Lincoln into the maze of crappy naming and betting hundreds of millions on an obviously stupid idea apparent to everyone but themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’ve seen Infinitis re-badged as Nissans over here, I’m not sure if everyones really wanting a higher ended badge.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        That’s usually attributed to the G35/G37. In Japan they are Nissan Skylines. The Skyline is kind of like the Mustang in the sense that they are all stereotyped as being fire breathing race cars. Not so. Usually when you mention Skyline, you automatically think GT-R. So the kids rebadge it to be cool and to brag about owning a Skyline, which they do, but not the GT-R! The reality is most of them are pretty benign….. 4 door non-turbo RB20′s with an automatic, diesels, station wagons (Stagea non-withstanding)…. or even a R32 with a utterly horrific CA18i 4 cylinder with TBI!(the pathetic Skyline GXI) which is kind of like the Skyline’s Mustang II. Sort of.

        That, or they’re going with the JDM look.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          When I think of newer Skylines I think of stupid looking crossovers, though I never did understand why someone would buy a car but be ashamed of the brand.

          • 0 avatar
            luvmyv8

            Indeed. They put the Skyline marque into the luxury catagory. Of course the R35 GT-R is the performance car…. but to me it’s a fast car, but ugly and fat and takes no skill to drive fast…. you can’t even get a true manual transmission for it. I’d happily chose a Corvette ZR1 over it. The GT-R probably is a better car, but the ZR1 would leave a permanent stupid grin on my face…. in fact I’d take a beater R32 GT-R over a new R35.

            Food for thought, how would you feel if Ford did this with the Mustang?

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        JDM… kind of an “in-joke” for fans of the marque. Rebadging is relatively cheap, easy, and undoable.

    • 0 avatar

      WMBA, I heard an interesting anecdote. I went to go visit my brother on the way to Detroit, and his friend (20 years old) was asking about the FR-S. His biggest issue with it wasn’t the lack of practicality or power but “I don’t want to tell girls I drive a Scion”.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I always assumed that Toyota mistakenly used the Scion badge on the hachi-roku because they thought it would be the upgrade for so-called ricers. They may have marketed it wrong, but you can see why they’d do it: Toyota now makes exclusively boring beigemobiles (as compared to the MR2s, Supras, Celicas of the past), whereas Scions makes the ricer-eligible cars now (e.g. tCs with 4-foot spoilers, fartcan exhaust, and neon ground-lighting).

      The difference, of course, between the Toyobaru and the typical ricer-car (not to be confused with a ricercar) is that ricers are generally used to driving FWD cars with 4-foot spoilers and fartcans. The prototypical car I think of is a fartcan-enabled Too Fast Too Furious Honda Civic, Acura Integra, Honda CRX, or maybe a Mitsubishi Eclipse or Lancer. That’s why early on some of the ricer-types who upgraded to the Toyobaru learned very quickly what power-on oversteer is (“so I turned off the traction control…”).

      It makes sense for Toyota to rectify this mistake. It doesn’t seem like the Toyobaru ever really belonged at Scion, but it also doesn’t seem like it fit in at beige-o-rama Toyota either, so they made a reasonable choice.

  • avatar
    Power6

    A sedan version of the FR-S would excite the enthusiasts

    Now a diesel boxer wagon variant in brown…well lets not go there…

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