The FR-S did not turn out to be Scion’s savior. Doubts regarding the ability of a conventional hatchback and a subcompact sedan — the brand’s first sedan — to rescue a brand that was built on unconventional cars have been expressed in many corners.
Yet with the arrival of those two cars, the iA and iM, Scion was the fastest-growing car brand in America in September 2015 and the second-fastest-growing brand overall.
Only the 89-percent increase attributed to Land Rover, an SUV-only brand, was superior to Scion’s 57-percent leap forward in September 2015.
Both brands benefited from disappointing results one year ago, which created the chance for September 2015 to appear especially healthy. Both brands benefited from the overhaul of large chunks of their model range. Both brands benefited from being low-volume marques — an 89-percent year-over-year improvement at Ford, for example, would have required an additional 153,000 sales in September; only 2,749 were required at Land Rover.
Nevertheless, relative to Scion’s own historic performances, September 2015 was the best U.S. sales month for the Toyota sub-brand in more than two years, the first month with more than 6,000 sales in over a year, and the best September in three years.
All credit goes to the newcomers. Excluding the iA and iM from the equation results in a drop of 25 percent in September volume with declines reported across the board. Now the best-selling Scion in the United States in September was a model that was only released for sale in September, the iA, a sedan version of the new Mazda2 which won’t even be sold in the U.S.
In its first month on the market, Scion reported 2,035 iA sales, and one wouldn’t think to credit “pent-up demand” for a hot start of a subcompact sedan. Toyota Yaris sales slid 2 percent to only 586 units in September; the Prius C was up 5 percent to 3,367 U.S. sales.
Meanwhile, the second-best-selling Scion in September was the similarly fresh iM, which produced 1,353 sales in its first month on the market. The Toyota Auris-based iM could be thought of as a very indirect successor to the Toyota Matrix and Scion xB.
Together, the iA and iM accounted for 52 percent of Scion’s September 2015 volume, a clear sign that the long-awaited Scion lineup overhaul took place very suddenly.
Scion was still selling a fair number of existing machines in September, at least by modern Scion standards. The xB isn’t dead yet. Sales of that model still totalled 1,117 units last month. The tC, the most popular Scion since 2011, was down 14 percent to 1,208. The FR-S, which attracted more than 1,000 U.S. owners in 27 of its first 30 months, has done so only four times this year. September sales slid 15 percent to 778 units, the second-lowest full month total for the FR-S in its nearly four-year history.
The iQ and xD are all but extinguished. Between the pair there were only 19 sales in September.
Yet even if the iA and iM can increase their totals to replace what will presumably be even more lost sales from the xB, FR-S, and tC, Scion will still only be selling half as many cars as they managed to sell in 2006. In other words, at September’s much improved sales pace, Scion would perhaps top 80,000 annual sales. That would be the highest U.S. Scion sales total in seven years, which only makes sense given the fact that the overall industry is generating more activity than at any point in the last seven years.
Even with new models being added to the fleet, even if they sell more often than any Scion has in the last half-decade or more, the greater issue facing Toyota’s sub-brand is its car-centric lineup.
Yes, in September 2015, Americans actually bought and leased more new cars than in the same period one year earlier — but not many more. In a market which surged forward with a 16 percent year-over-year increase, passenger car volume was up just 6 percent as SUV/crossover sales jumped 31 percent.
With high value quotients, the iA and iM are likely to restore a measure of health to Scion’s U.S. sales situation. However, in order for Scion to approach the days of routinely selling more than 100,000 new vehicles per year as it did between 2005 and 2008, Toyota’s Frankfurt crossover debut, the C-HR Concept, must end up in America as a Scion. Nothing about the current state of affairs suggests that, for any brand, traditional passenger cars are the ticket to high-volume bliss.