The Truth About Cars » scion xA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 27 Aug 2015 18:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » scion xA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Hammer Time: Is Scion The New Geo? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/hammer-time-scion-new-geo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/hammer-time-scion-new-geo/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 12:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1138522 Imagine if you will. The world’s largest and most consistently successful automaker is in deep trouble. Not because of profits, but because of products. They build a small car… and a small army of overseas competitors blow it away. They build a bigger vehicle, and another, and yet another. They build so many models with […]

The post Hammer Time: Is Scion The New Geo? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
geo1

Imagine if you will.

The world’s largest and most consistently successful automaker is in deep trouble. Not because of profits, but because of products.

Chevrolet-Cavalier-1982They build a small car… and a small army of overseas competitors blow it away.

They build a bigger vehicle, and another, and yet another. They build so many models with so many names and variations that they wind up cannibalizing their own products. Every time this happens, they lose sales and more alarmingly, their youngest customers no longer see their products as fashionable.

Every year it gets worse. Then the corporate mothership, which has cost cut their way into the rear view mirror of most of their future customers, comes up with a brilliant marketing idea.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em — at least for right now.

That was the General Motors of the 1980s. After a mind numbing streak of marketplace losers (Chevette, Sprint, Citation, Omega, T1000, Skyhawk, Cimmaron, Sunbird), GM, under the ever watchful accounting driven gazes of its CEO, Roger Smith, decided that it was time to let imports fight imports. This fight would take place inside Chevy dealerships which were foolishly asked to market a new sub-brand that would compete with higher margin products which already represented the ‘real’ GM metal.

The new brand — Geo — was launched with a mandatory display area (usually in some God forsaken corner of the showroom) for those dealerships that wanted to carry a brand which was all about “Getting to know you.”

First they offered the Geo Prizm. This had been a Toyota in drag which had been marketed as a Chevy Nova during its pre-Geo run. Besides the annual humiliation of having GM’s highest quality plant and product be driven by Toyota know-how, the Nova had also been a sales flop despite the world-class Toyota underpinnings.

Prices were high, dealer margins were minimal, and the commercials? Like an aspiring Yuppie on speed.

The Prizm was followed by the Geo Tracker, which was a Suzuki Sidekick emblazoned with a new Geo logo that, strangely enough, had a bow-tie on the steering wheel — just in case the customers were wondering if it was a real American car, which it wasn’t.

The Geo Metro was next. Although this would turn out to be among the most popular models for gas sippers, tree huggers, rental car companies, and unrepentatnt cheapskates frugal zealots, it didn’t have as strong of a retail presence as many of today’s auto enthusiasts would imagine. The car was flimsy with a new car price to boot, and the acceleration with an automatic was just plain atrocious.

GM needed something, really anything, that would stand out. So what did they do?

They created a joint venture on a sporty coupe — with a company that had zero success in selling sporty coupes.

Sound familiar? It should for those who have followed the recent Scion FR-S. In GM’s case, the Isuzu Impulse, which even came with a Lotus tuned suspension to emphasize handling, was re-homologated into a Geo Storm.

It lasted one generation. The Prizm would last two generations as a Geo, and then would get pulverized into a fine red mist once GM pulled the plug and tried to make it a Chevy. The same with the Metro and the Tracker.

Come to think of it, nobody is quite sure what happened to the Tracker. But rumor has it that the model got eaten by a horde of obese cannibals disguised as Chevy Blazers.

This brings us to the Geo of 2015: Scion.

Like Geo, Scion was initially marketed to the young and youthful in a way that would make middle-aged and older people feel good about their ‘youthful’ purchase. Too bad the advertising was a cacophony of fake special effects and hip-hop fashionistas who apparently were told to display themselves instead of the car.

You think I’m kidding? Well this time, I’m being brutally blunt. On a press launch for the Lexus CT200h back in 2009, the marketing head for that project had also been in charge of launching the Scion brand in the United States. When I asked him why the CT200h didn’t launch as a Scion I was told, “Scion was never marketed as a brand for young people. It was intended to attract people at a specific price range.”

I immediately thought, “Well, okay. I never knew buyers in the $15,000 to $18,000 price hung around college campuses and went to death metal concerts.”

And that to me is the core part of Scion’s failure as a brand — it’s a cannibal. All cannibal sub-brands die in the car business because the core brand is too important to be seriously challenged. As sure as old four-door Geo Metros got recycled into Chinese washing machines, Scion became a poor excuse for Toyota not better supporting their Y2K-era Corolla against the compacts, and last generation Celicas against the sports coupes.

After 10 years of Toyota customers getting to know a slew of Scions, one thing is clear.

Scion only got launched because Toyota decontented their products and ignored the fact that a brand only becomes ‘boring’ when their products no longer cater to the emerging niches and interests within the industry.

Those new cars and new technologies need the Toyota brand. Scion is a mistake.

The post Hammer Time: Is Scion The New Geo? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/hammer-time-scion-new-geo/feed/ 112
Why Scion Matters http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/455888/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/455888/#comments Wed, 08 Aug 2012 16:22:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455888   A couple of months ago, Aaron Robinson of Car & Driver wrote an expansive article about Scion. This quote pretty much summarized his view on the brand. “I have no doubt that Scion will eventually go the way of Plymouth.” I’m sure he wasn’t implying that cheap Scions will someday morph their way into […]

The post Why Scion Matters appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

 

A couple of months ago, Aaron Robinson of Car & Driver wrote an expansive article about Scion.

This quote pretty much summarized his view on the brand.

“I have no doubt that Scion will eventually go the way of Plymouth.”

I’m sure he wasn’t implying that cheap Scions will someday morph their way into becoming Toyota equivalents that offer fake wood trim exterior panels and trombone case red interiors. As a long-time automotive writer and columnist, he was simply reading the proverbial writing on Scion’s firewall that has been ever deeper ingrained into their product line.

“Mediocrity… is killing the brand.” This inscription ought to be welded onto every frumpish inner panel of Scion’s soon to be defunct models, the Scion xB and Scion xD. Underpowered compact cars that look like SUV’s in 2012 sell about as well as two-seater cars that look like frogs. Or bland plain-jane sport coupes that try capriciously to do battle with the market leaders.

Heck, I recently saw a perfectly fine 2010 Scion Xb with only 28k miles sell for $10,000 at a well attended dealer auction. A near forty percent drop off the original MSRP over just a two year period. In my profit driven world, where nearly every Toyota model represents stiff price premiums and high demand finance fodder, nobody wants to buy these things.

The reason for this market failure is obvious.

If a product is inherently bad or terminally neglected, no name brand will save it. It’s that simple. Every brand out there has market failures. In the case of Scion, they are going from a 2 for 3 boom on their debut generation (xB and tC good, xA not so much) to a 1 for 5 second run (FR-S may likely be the sole survivor.)

Scion is on the ropes if you look at their current model line-up. But the same could have been said for Hyundai back in 1999, Subaru back in 1994, or even the 1st generation Infiniti models back in 1992. All of these brands suffered mortal market wounds of the debilitating type.

But that did not mean the brands could not fill a gaping void in the marketplace. All of them succeeded because they found several niches that no other brand could fully satisfy.

Which brings us to the dire need of the present day.

Right now Toyota and Honda are facing a market exodus in one broad segment that is largely a reflection of their own long-term successes. Where do you go after you have already owned the reliable family car? Or the commuter scooter that has taken you everywhere and back with low ownership costs?

In the old world the move was pretty simple. The automotive world was upwardly mobile and that Toyota or Honda buyer could be just as content in a Lexus or Acura. Unfortunately, something terrible happened to both of these prestige brands between the Clinton era and the modern day.

They became boring, generic, and a bit old fogey in their market reach. These days a middle-aged person generally does not aspire to own a Lexus or an Acura. If they have put in their dues of driving the family car, they are looking for that thrill. As is the younger guy who is not quite ready to settle down, but is finally making the big bucks.

These folks, if they are willing to spend their money, often want the anti-Toyota. The anti-Honda. The car that is more involving to drive… but… with this desire also comes a concern.

These buyers also want a car that is reliable and doesn’t represent a potential black hole in their annual budget. Like everyone else, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Two potential options are out there. The first is testing out a sporty prestige brand. An Audi. A BMW. A sports oriented car that is heavily marketed as a lease vehicle and can provide them with that extra thrill that they certainly won’t get with another Camry or Accord.

My brother Paul is the poster child for this. Two new Toyotas and one new Honda for the family over the last 15 years. The oldest child is about to go to college. The money is in the bank. The sacrifice of ‘fun driving’ for ‘family driving’ has already been made.

Did he want another Toyota or Honda? No, Paul and his wife wanted something different. Something that was not already driven by their senior citizen parents. They bought a 2012 Audi A6 and a CPO Audi A4.

The second option is to get the fun affordable car. Not too long ago fun usually meant two doors and a possible slight engine and suspension upgrade over the plain four door model. This is one of the main reasons why the Toyota Camry remained so dominant during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Fun and four doors were few and far between.

These days an affordable four door model can be just as sporty without the past sacrifice at the altar of practicality. A car with an Accent, a Soul, a good Fit, or a Focus, can be every bit as enjoyable to drive as a Veloster, a Forte, a Civic, or dare I say it… a Mustang.

Whether prestigious or plain named, a slew of buyers want the option to buy a fun car that does not share the same emblem of the car that they have been driving ever since the kids were little. Or ever since they were struggling to get established.

It’s not because they are unhappy with that reliable car. Sometimes folks just want something that is ‘not’ what they have been driving. Even if it has been a good car.

I can see Scion becoming the fun side of Toyota. The sporty side of a company that can already register millions in annual sales by harvesting the fertile fields of those seeking the ‘family car’, the ‘retiree car’, the ‘keep my ownership costs low’ car.

Toyota is already losing that buyer who picks the Altima over the Camry. The Mazda 3 and Fiat 500, over a Matrix or a Corolla. The reality is that by attracting a more conservative and older audience, you sometimes have to make compromises in design and interior ergonomics that make a car less appealing to those seeking fun and sport. Or even just simply something different.

There is still a gaping void of ‘fun’ between $15,000 and $35,000 that Scion could define as their specific market. I have no doubt that a car with the Toyota halo of reliability, coupled with sharp looks and exceptional handling, could lead to a new era of success for Scion.

The question is whether Toyota will invest in a Scion worthy of that reputation. To me the FR-S is one of those models. Should there be others?

 

The post Why Scion Matters appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/455888/feed/ 86