The best-selling Toyota subcompact in America is a Mexican-built Mazda that’s sold as a Scion and will soon be sold as a Toyota. It’s a car that’s already called the Yaris R in Mexico and the Yaris Sedan in Canada.
Meanwhile, Toyota’s once hot-selling subcompact, the Toyota-branded Yaris, is a hatchback imported from France that scarcely attracts any attention at all.
In between, Toyota’s actual Japanese-built Prius C is increasingly unpopular.
Scion’s best-selling car since its launch last fall, the iA, is far from a major player in America’s declining subcompact car market. (Overall, subcompact sales actually increased in February, albeit only slightly, after tumbling in January.) Combined, the Toyota subcompact trio owns 15 percent of U.S. subcompact sales through the first two months of 2016, up from 12 percent a year ago, prior to the dawn of the iA.
With a three-pronged approach, Toyota is therefore outselling all but the two best-selling subcompact cars in America: the Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent.
The competition is not exactly fierce. Although Chevrolet Sonic sales are rebounding, the 23-percent year-over-year rise through two months still means Sonic sales are 44 percent off 2014’s sales pace. Even if the Hyundai Accent maintains its current 7-percent rate of improvement, Accent volume won’t return to the levels Hyundai achieved in 2009. Yes, 2009, when overall auto sales were in the toilet.
The class-leading Versa is down 10 percent in early 2016. Honda’s Fit, widely regarded by critics to be the class of the field, is on pace to lose 20,000 sales this year (as Honda prepares to sell approximately 60,000 HR-Vs). The aging Ford Fiesta is on track for U.S. sales to fall to a four-year low. At the current rate, Kia will struggle to sell 20,000 Rios in America in 2016. Kia sold more than 50,000 Rios in 2002 and topped the 40,000 mark in 2012 and 2013.
And what of Mazda? The Mazda2, of course, is dead. After failing to make any headway with their 2010-2015 subcompact foray — a period during which Mazda USA sold 61,963 Mazda2s, or about the number of Mazda3s it sells in seven months — Mazda gave up on the weakening U.S. subcompact market. The CX-3 partially fills the void, and it’s already selling as well as the Mazda2 did at its peak. But Mazda is also benefiting from an arrangement with Toyota that sees the renamed Mazda2, Scion’s iA, selling at a faster pace than the discontinued, previous-gen Mazda2 ever managed.
February marked a six-month sales high for the six-month-old iA. With 2,305 sales, the iA accounted for four in ten Scion sales and slightly more than four in ten Toyota subcompact sales. The average of 1,958 monthly sales since September works out to 23,500 annual sales for the Mazda2, which we know as the Scion iA, 22-percent better than the Mazda2 ever achieved when it was actually the Mazda2.
Yet strangely enough, Scion may never get the opportunity to sell 23,500 of its Mazda2s. By the end of summer, the iA will be transitioning, no longer permitted to wear those counterculture Scion badges; maturing instead into full-blown Toyota guise.
Yaris sales are down by half so far this year. Prius C sales are on track to decline for a fourth consecutive year. Thus, given the propensity of Toyota’s own Yaris to disappear from radar and Toyota’s own Prius C to gradually fade from view the iA’s status will remain mostly intact, but for one change.
By the end of the year, the best-selling Toyota subcompact in America will be a Mexican-built Mazda that was once sold as a Scion but is becoming a Toyota.
[Images: Toyota, Mazda]