By on May 9, 2016

2016 Scion iM

Quick trivia: what’s the fastest-growing auto brand in America?

Jeep? Land Rover? GMC? Ram? Volvo?

Year-over-year, through the first four months of 2016, sales at Scion — Toyota’s 13-year-old youth-directed brand — are up 53 percent. It’s not just recovery after a poor start to 2015. Scion is on track for its best year since 2008.

Well, Scion would be on track for U.S. sales to rise to an eight-year high if, by the end of this year, Scion still existed.

But as you recall, “As part of the brand transition, beginning in August 2016, MY17 Scion vehicles will be rebadged as Toyotas.” In other words, the sales generated by Scion at the end of 2016 won’t be Scion sales at all. The experiment is over. The beakers are going back on the shelf. Lab techs have already hung up their white coats.

Just as the going is getting good. Or at least, sort of good.

Scion iA, Image: Toyota

The Scion corners of Toyota showrooms are currently riding a wave of iA and iM appreciation.

In March, brand-wide sales rose to a 31-month high of 7,261 units largely because of the two models that weren’t on sale at this stage one year ago. The Mazda2-based Scion iA’s 3,264 sales and the Toyota Corolla-related Scion iM’s 1,659 March sales made up more than two-thirds of the Toyota sub-brand’s U.S. volume two months ago. Overall, Scion’s cars added nearly 3,000 sales to the Toyota portfolio’s total in March 2016 as Toyota brand cars lost 12,000 sales, year-over-year.

Then, in April, Scion’s eighth consecutive month of year-over-year growth, the addition of 4,565 iA and iM sales easily cancelled out the loss of more than 2,200 sales across the rest of Scion’s lineup. (FR-S sales fell by a third. The iQ, tC, xB, and xD — none of which will find a place under the Toyota umbrella — collectively plunged 58 percent.)

Scion was America’s 30th-best-selling auto brand in April 2015. One year later, Scion ranked 26th. It’s clear, then, that Scion’s recent surge has not created a third high-volume brand for Toyota. Lexus’ most popular model, the RX crossover, handily outsells the Scion brand as a whole. In all, 10 Toyota and Lexus nameplates generated more sales between January and April of this year than the Scion brand: Camry, Corolla, RAV4, Tacoma, Highlander, Sienna, Tundra, 4Runner, RX, and Prius.

2017 Toyota C-HR teased photo

Nevertheless, with Scion’s best first-third performance since 2008, it seems a strange time for Toyota to drop the brand. Besides the iM and the increasingly popular iA, the C-HR was preparing to be Scion’s entry in the burgeoning subcompact crossover segment, where even mid-pack players produce significantly more U.S. sales volume than the most popular Scion.

Or at least, it seems like strange timing until one considers the strength of the Toyota brand and the relative weakness of the Scion badge.

Yes, the first-third of 2016 represented the best start to a year since 2008, but Scion sales so far this year are 36 percent lower than they were eight years ago and less than half as numerous as they were at Scion’s peak in 2006.

2006 Scion xB

2006. When the tC, on its own, created the same level of appeal as the whole Scion brand does now. 2006. Before the xB bloated; before the Kia Soul became the better answer to the xB’s question. 2006. Before Subaru could jack up an Impreza, label it a Crosstrek, and generate more than 7,000 sales per month, more than the Scion brand.

Toyota has proven that the continuing slate of Scion products can perform decently: as a third Toyota entry in the subcompact market, as a hatchback for Corolla buyers who don’t want a trunk, and even as a niche-market sports car that — at the very least — shows Toyota knows how to undo the top button and loosen its tie on a Friday afternoon.

But Toyota doesn’t need the Scion badge to prove any of that. “Our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers,” Jim Lentz, Toyota’s North American CEO, said three months ago. Scion did, in fact, attract a younger clientele. Now, with Scion once again attracting more of those buyers, dealers need to bring them into the Toyota fold. It shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, there aren’t that many of them.

[Images: Toyota]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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29 Comments on “2016 Is On Track To Be The Scion Brand’s Best Year Since… Oh Wait A Second...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Click undo!!!

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Nahh, Toyota’s Saturn needed to go. Having sales shoot up is the result of two higher volume models and slashing prices. Its not an indication that there was nothing wrong.

      Just like Saturn, had they stayed with the kinds of unique products they launched with, this may have been avoidable. But, as with Saturn, they couldnt do that.

      They took everything that made the original xB appealing and injected fat into it, ruining it. They let the tC wither on the vine, rather than give it a full redesign to build on the first model. Those two statements are not at odds, though they may appear to be. What I mean is they should not have kept the old xB in production, but rather have kept it in line with the JDM Toyota bB with the resesign instead of “Americanizing” it.

      The xA and xD werent exactly great to begin with, but as someone (sorta) suggested below, they couldve kept Scion fresh with funky, cool and small JDM models otherwise not offered here. There are several great little Daihatsu models that wouldve been awesome as Scions here. Hell, Id have even tried to market Kei models here as city cars. The investment to make that happen may be to great to risk, but risks must be taken if you want to stand out, and wasnt that the point of the brand to begin with?

      The FR-S wasnt/isnt selling well, but its Toyota-badged cousin the rest of the world gets isnt exactly lighting up sales charts in those markets, either.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well the iA is a decent value proposition.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2016-scion-ia-review-video-mono-priced-zoom-zoom/

    If I were in the market for such a thing.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Scion sales are rising because they have some decent product in their line-up. But the brand is still dead as it has no differentiating brand values to set it apart from its parent company. These will sell just as well as Toyotas as they do Scions.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Hooooover…

    …nobody does it like yooooouuuuu!

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    One should loosen the tie before undoing the top button, as the button is much easier to access when proceeding in this order.

  • avatar
    yamahog

    Scion does well when they sell cars that would sell as Toyotas (FR-S, iA, Corolla Hatch, TC).

    And Scion does well when they sell funky cars (first gen xB).

    So why don’t they bring over funkier JDM cars and see what sticks? Just bring over a few models for a few years – they have a boxy car that’s factory wheel chair accessible. Luckily, I’m able-bodied but I think the space and the cargo room would be terrific.

    And they have a mid-size N/A diesel RWD sedan – it’s like their version of the Crown Vic – with a 5 speed column shifted manual transmission. If they had a factory biodiesel option and an easy to reach fuel filter, I’d buy one at sticker price.

    Toyota should do a better job of giving car enthusiasts the oppertunity to buy cool things without paying the Lexus premium. Or if they pay the lexus premium, give them cart blanche to get JDM oddities like the 1980s Town Car suspension calibration on a Toyota Crown Majesta / Lexus GS

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I forget which commenter it was, but his son got a very good deal on an iA recently, something like $13K when it was all said and done. Considering the mobile penalty-boxes that normally reside in that price-range (Mirage, anyone?), I could easily see a lot of takers for the iA if Scion is handing out deals like that. Hell, even below $20K, it’s still a very competent car. And the Mazda2 parts do bolt right up, if you’re not a fan of the “shocked sea bass” look.

  • avatar
    MatadorX

    After much deliberation, I just went ahead and bought one of the last 2015 XBs on the west coast, and am really happy not to have missed out. It is Army Rock Brown, with Manual, pretty much the rarest combo for the model, and for $15.5 before tax I think I stole it..

    Toyota’s emphasis on Hybrids for smaller vehicles is pretty much the end for my interest in the brand. Scion was great because it has generally offered proven engineering from the homeland, that by the time it got here was completely vetted for issues, and super simple if anything did fail. No batteries, electric gimmicks that while reliable are expensive if they do fail. I can rebuild the 2.4 along with pretty much anything else on the XB/XD/TC in my well equipped garage if it fails. I like that. A $24.99 basic tool kit and some deep metric sockets takes apart the whole car. No exotic torx bolts. No need to reprogram the computer after replacing a digital display. Old school simplicity with Toyota reliability at its best.

    The way Toyota is going is that of the rest of the industry, globalized component sourcing. I bought the XB because I work in the vehicle logistics industry and see what absolute garbage is shipped from South of the boarder, and how much shady bodywork and iffy repairs have to be completed at the port when that junk gets here. My XB is pretty much as Japanese as it gets, everything, including the engine, interior, mechanical components, and body itself is made not by Toyota per say, but their suppliers’ factories in Japan. NipponDenso, Aisin, Koyo, NSK, Koito, the list goes on of the highest quality suppliers in the world, who for their domestic JP production have Japanese plants not Chinese that make components. Japanese built Toyotas are not great because of Toyota, they are great because Toyota’s suppliers are great, with unbelievable quality control in the face of Toyota’s urging to cut cost, and global competition.

    So Toyota uses the same actuator for 20 models, the same engine since 2004, hard plastics. If that is the price for using Japanese suppliers rather than Mexican or Chinese so be it. TMMK Toyotas are already nearing 30% Mexican sourced parts. Once scion is dead, cheap Japanese produced Toyotas that are not able to use totally amortized components will turn to more Thai, Korean, and Chinese parts.

    As you can tell, I don’t care about new fancy tech, I’d rather have a car that actually works, built by a conservative company that prefers to actually R&D their mechanical bits rather than redesign everything every year to be flashy, then stick it to the consumer with 100 TSB redesigned parts which oh by the way you need but aren’t recalled or under warranty. LOOKING AT YOU FORD!!!!!

    Scion was great, because for about 5-7 more years than in the rest of the industry, you could still buy an incredibly reliable car, with all Japanese parts, for a low price, that just about any garage in the country can fix with parts from any parts store same day if need be. Because of that I was able to buy a 2015 car that will be as similar as possible to stepping back in time and buying a swiss watch like 1995 Camry 2.2 of the “Fat” reliable years of Toyota’s glory days, and just like those days get 200, 300, 400k out of it if so desired without computer gremlins and obsolescence of the rest of the industry.

    Just look up the most reliable car for 2014….

    And by the way, I am SOOO fed up with the way every auto journo has to completely pan XB2 as opposed to Gen1..I personally test drove the 1st gen brand new and other than slightly more space it was not a finished vehicle for driving on our decrepit US roads among our giant SUVs. The ride was simply awful, power adequate, and substance lacking. It was tiny in a cool go kartish way, but if I wanted that I’d have gotten a Miata. The second gen corrected all these issues, and actually feels like a real car, with ride and comfort to match. It is sold internationally as a Corolla wagon, and basically it is. XB1 was basically a Tercel wagon, just too dang downsized and cheap. Just because it isn’t exactly like the original doesn’t make it inherently worse. Heck name a single Toyota that doesn’t look worse that it’s predecessor in some way (not that XB2 does in my opinion)

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Funny, I liked the Tercel, speaking of the first (1982 and older) models as well as the 1990s versions. Not a fan of any FWD Corolla.

      If you feel the need to justify your purchase, fine, but the original xB was appealing for the exact reasons you claim were its downfalls.

      Saying if you want a small, go-cart like car that you’d buy a Miata instead makes it clear that you miss the point. It was small and go-cart like, but with tons of interior room. The Miata is a great little roadster, even if the new one is ugly, but nobody has ever accused it of being practical or roomy.

      The boxy shape/styling of the original xB was a huge part of its appeal, all of which was lost on the second gen. If they wanted to sell the fat version here for people like you, it couldve been a companion model to the next-gen JDM bB, which wouldve kept the xB moniker. Call the bloated model the xC (as in, one step up from the xB). This wouldve kept everyone happy instead of ditching those who made the first gen a success.

      By the way, Toyota doesnt keep old parts around because of reliability, they do it because the mindless minions who buy the Corolla and Camry dont know any better, or care if the company wants to truly advance their products, or just slap new facias on old models. Putting your spin on it to try to make it seem as though its a good thing is laughable. Dont worry, if your pudgy xB doesnt work out, there is a 4 speed Corolla with your name on it.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Ski-on has never had a competent product. You are better off buying elsewhere. These weren’t good enough to be Toyoduhs here.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Dead cat bounce…Scion is running giveaways on its remaining models.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    This is rich.

    Announce the brand is toast…and start clearing inventory.

    BY CUTTING PRICES AND MAKING DEALS.

    Exactly the way Scions WERE NOT sold.

    And then, have a record sales year.

    Maybe…their sales model needed some reworking?


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