Only seven years removed from selling more than 100,000 cars in the United States, Scion’s current woes are more easily understood by looking at the brands which now outsell Toyota’s “youth” brand.
One such Scion-besting automaker: Porsche.
Rewind just one year and Scion, through the first eight months of 2014, was outselling Porsche by 10,000 units. Yet in the first eight months of 2015, Scion only outsold Porsche three times — in February, March, and May — and trails Porsche by nearly 2,200 sales heading into September.
Porsche is certainly not a Scion rival. Even the FR-S, Scion’s most costly car, costs only half as much as Porsche’s least expensive car, a basic, un-optioned Boxster. (Is there even such a thing?)
But the change in order speaks volumes about Porsche’s steady climb to record highs and the fall of Scion, the latter of which saw its share of the U.S. market fall by 73 percent, from 1.04 percent in 2006 to 0.28 percent in 2015.
Indeed, the change in order – Porsche ranks 29th among auto brands in U.S. year-to-date sales; Scion 30th – is unprecedented.
Other than Scion’s launch year of 2003, when Porsche sold twice as many vehicles as upstart Scion’s 10,898 units, Porsche has never outsold the Toyota sub-brand. Even in 2010 and 2011, when the market was slowly rebounding from a disastrous 2009, as Porsche volume jumped 29 percent and 15 percent respectively, Scion’s severe slowdowns following its 2009 performance still didn’t put the two brands within shouting distance of one another.
However, 2015 plays host to record Porsche sales. Porsche’s car lineup is fading, in keeping with the market’s turn away from passenger cars. But so great is the boost provided by the Macan that the degree to which it’s eaten into Cayenne volume — Cayenne sales are down 7% — is meaningless given the extra volume provided by the smaller SUV.
Compared with the first eight months of 2014, during which the Macan was only on sale for four, Porsche has added 3,117 U.S. sales in 2015, including 5,174 additional Macan sales.
Scion, which offers no utility vehicles and derives the majority of its volume from two-door cars in a coupe-averse era, is down 22% this year.
There are other major factors at play in Toyota’s Scion stores. The iQ, intended to provide a more practical alternative to the Smart Fortwo, never caught on. Discontinued now, sales are down 72 percent in 2015. Similarly, the second-generation xB simply didn’t produce the demand created by the first-gen model. Nevertheless, in clear-out mode, xB sales are actually up this year, albeit by a modest 1 percent. The xD, a successor to the xA, is a cancelled model that suffered an 87 percent drop through the first eight months of 2015.
Therefore, Scion is between jobs, relying on defunct nameplates to generate scant volume as the brand awaits the arrival of its first sedan, the iA, and the a more conventional hatchback with the iM.
As if the comparison wasn’t ideal to begin with because of the brands’ respective modi operandi, it’s made all the less fair because of the transition through which Scion is currently wending its way.
Scion was once cause for industry observers to laud Toyota’s foresight. Now Scion is the cause of Toyota-directed criticism because of corporate neglect. This is the reason Scion becomes a story; not because a luxury SUV and sports car builder sells more vehicles, but because the brand once known for unique automobiles is launching a rebadged Mazda sedan and a Toyota Auris hatchback in hopes of restoring former glory.
Scion may well sell more copies of the iA and iM than the iQ, xD, and xB managed in the recent past. It will be difficult not to — so low was the volume produced by that trio, so impressive is the value quotient in the newest Scions.
But we must always compare likely reports of a Scion “rebound” not with the recent past but in contrast to the age in which Scion was most successful. Since 2009, Scion has averaged fewer than 4,900 monthly U.S. sales, down from 12,000 monthly sales between 2005 and 2008, when Scion’s lineup was smaller and Toyota understood exactly what potential Scion customers wanted. There will be a small market for the iA in 2016, yet as subcompacts fade fast from the wish lists of modern American car buyers we’ll look back and realize how out of character it would have been, in 2006, for Scion to release an utterly conventional small sedan.
Granted, in 2006, we weren’t even remotely capable of forecasting that Porsche would sell more than twice as many Macans in America as they do Boxsters and Caymans combined. The vehicle from which the Macan is derived, Audi’s Q5, was still three years away from launching.
Times change. So do tastes. We know Porsches whet your appetite, but will Scions ever again cause your mouth to water?