By on October 30, 2009

Ever since GM announced that Saturn would be winding down, there’s been a niche-brand-like hole in the Canadian car market. And rather than learning from GM’s struggles, Toyota’s jumping right in to repeat them. The Star reports that ToMoCo have announced that Scion is going to Canada. Toyota will start off with 45 dealerships in urban settings (makes sense for an urban marque, I suppose); 20 in Toronto, 18 in Montreal and 7 in Vancouver. It’ll start off as a “store within a store” format. “The next generation of young car buyers is carving its own unique social and cultural experiences and Scion dealers will be part of their lifestyle,” Larry Hutchinson, Scion’s director in Canada, said. By slathering sensible cars which appeal to empty-nester boomers with youth-oriented marketing? Yeah, that’s been working well so far…


The article goes on to say that analysts reckon that Scion can strategically help Toyota increase brand loyalty by winning drivers at a younger age. This sounds a lot of like brand management consultant rubbish. In Europe, Toyota are successfully getting young people into the Toyota family via the rather cute and hip Aygo and what brand does that use? That’s right, Toyota. Meanwhile, Scion’s youth-marketing-driven US performance has been wildly forgettable. No need for a third brand there. The cars on offer, initially will be the Avensis related tC, the subcompact xD and the xB compact. No prices have been released yet.

To give you an idea of the size of the task facing Scion, in 2008 Saturn sold, in Canada, 18,729 units. In the US, which has more potential customers, Scion sold, in 2008, 114,000 units whilst Saturn sold 188,004. If Toyota’s hoping that the volume in Canada will offset the drop in the United States for Scion, then would they like to contact me as I have some magic beans I’d like to sell them……

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23 Comments on “Scion Takes Over For Saturn As Canada’s Struggling Niche Brand Of Choice...”


  • avatar
    dean

    If you ignore the argument for Scion’s existence, then it certainly makes sense for Toyota to bring the brand to Canada. We like small, practical cars here.

    I’ll agree that the continued push for younger buyers is a waste of ad budget. Young people in Canada either buy used cars, or their parents buy them something, or they’ve inherited enough money to buy a 335i. They don’t buy what the marketers tell them they should.

  • avatar
    thirty-three

    I think Toyota will have much more success with Scion in Canada than in the US. The demand for small cars is much higher here. The Civic and Corolla have been 2 of the top 3 best selling cars here for many years. The Mazda3 sells very well too, also in the top 3.

    Canadians are crazy enough to drive Smarts in Saskatoon. In the winter!

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    I saw a study sometime ago (year?) that got me to lighten up on Scion.

    IIRC correctly they found that ~80% of Scion buyers were new to ToMoCo products and that when Scion buyers bought again ~80% went ToMoCo (something like 50% Camry).
    Combine that with one of the youngest buyer averages it looks like it might be a good way to funnel in buyers they weren’t reaching.(yah, oldsters like ’em too, what are they supposed to do? have a maximum age limit? right).

    I don’t see anything I want from them currently (like the old xB a lot), and enthusiasts love to dog pile on them, but we are way to fond of our all to often irrelevant opinions anyway.

    Keep in mind also, a small model line like that will always go up and down a lot in sales depending on whether a new model hits or misses. There are not 20 other vehicles to cushion the effect.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I think Toyota will have much more success with Scion in Canada than in the US. The demand for small cars is much higher here.

    Agreed. Toyota dealers in Canada, IIRC, were screaming for Scion franchises. Many dealers made a tidy profit selling grey-market xBs, and the Echo hatch (more or less the same as the original xA) and the succeeding Yaris, both sold incredibly well here versus the US. Oh, and the Nissan Cube is selling like gangbusters here. Go figure.

    It seemed very foolish for Toyota to pass up selling Scions in perhaps the only part of North America that would be readily accepting of them.

    Comparing them to Saturn isn’t valid. Saturn in Canada had nothing anyone wanted after the S-Series went away. The Astra sold well enough after the price was cut to make it competitive, but by then it was far too late.

  • avatar
    Boff

    We relaxed our bumper standards for this????

    I kid. Scion will do pretty well up here. I can totally see my 65-year-old mother in an xD.

  • avatar
    PennSt8

    Comparing them to Saturn isn’t valid. Saturn in Canada had nothing anyone wanted after the S-Series went away. The Astra sold well enough after the price was cut to make it competitive, but by then it was far too late.

    I agree whole heartedly, but unless Toyota does something sooner rather than later Scion faces a very similar fate.

    The xB has become a large bloat mobile, with none of the original’s quirkiness. Then you have the tC which is past its shelf life. The only model that I find compelling is the xD, as it has stayed true to the xA’s premise.

    With the Fit, Soul, Civic Coupe and upcoming Fiesta Toyota is in for a ride.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Don’t write off Canada’s admiration for smaller cars. There are a LOT of Civics, Corollas and Mazda 3’s in the streets. For every Camry you see you will see 10 Corollas. And for every Mazda6 you see, you will see 15 Mazda3. And for every Accord you see you will see 20 Civics.

    Canada is much more in line with Europe and South America as far as what size is “good enough” for a car. The Toyota and Honda aura of ultra-reliability is reflected on their resale prices.

    When I moved from the US to Canada back in ’02, I could not believe how a) the cars were smaller b)the cars were older c) the Japanese brands held their prices on the used market

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    I don’t understand why Canada didn’t get Scions in the first place. Maybe it was so experimental Toyota didn’t want to launch it in more than one country at a time. In any case, it should be successful, IMHO, because, as everybody has already noted, Canadians like small, inexpensive cars.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Scion has one thing in common with Saturn: no-haggle pricing, which – among other things – strongly attracted me to the brand when I bought my 05 xB.

    Scion’s ‘young buyer’ theme is bogus, which their own customer study bears out. I was well over 40 when I got my car, and per Bunter‘s comment above, it was my first Toyota product.

    But Scion’s products are much less attractive today than they were before the bloat set in. For example, every Malibu offered by Chevy gets better fuel economy than the xB, and looks a lot better, too. I wouldn’t even consider a Scion today.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Scion’s younger buyer theme is not bogus. It has the lowest average buyer age of any brand in the industry. That doesn’t mean that seventy year old grandmas don’t buy one every so often, of course, just that on average, more young people do.

  • avatar

    Hard to disagree with G. Slippy.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “Scion’s younger buyer theme is not bogus.”

    I only know three Scion owners besides me; all are between 40-60. I know that Toyota has previously expressed surprise at the older-than-expected demographic purchasing Scions.

  • avatar
    charly

    The image of Toyota is different in Europe than it is in America so Scion is not that useful as mark. Toyota is also much smaller in Europe so selling to none Toyota buyers is much more important for the Toyota brand in Europe

  • avatar

    My parents looked at the Scion line the last time they were in the market for a car, and got treated really nastily by the local dealership for being too old. My mother, who had liked the looks of the xB, was infuriated, and their likelihood of even considering a Toyota product next time around is very low. (They ended up with a last-of-the-line Protege5.) I guess that’s one way to lower your median buyer age, but being a douche to customers with cash in hand seems like a dubious marketing strategy to me…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    For example, every Malibu offered by Chevy gets better fuel economy than the xB, and looks a lot better, too

    Not a valid comparison. I mean, the Equinox, CR-V or RAV/4, maybe, and certainly the HHR, Cube, Fit or Element, but the Malibu? Why not compare the Camaro while you’re at it.

    The xB is a box designed for in-city use whereas the Malibu is a sleeker, if much more compromised (in terms of cargo and passenger space) highway queen. Of course it’s going to get worse mileage: it’s a brick.

  • avatar

    The former low median age of Scion buyers came from modded the xB pool. The redesign killed that and the median age jumped up. Now the only young people ever buying anything Scion buy tC, if they don’t have money for MINI.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    It’s going to bomb.

    The xB has some serious competition now from Nissan/Kia, the tC is ancient and completely off the radar up here, and the xD is already sold here as a 4 door Yaris.

    Toyota doesn’t have a problem selling small cars in Canada, this is just going to cost them and their dealers money.

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    They’ve been talking about moving Scion up here since late 2008 actually.

    Some dealerships have been playing a ‘Scion Coming to Canada in 2010’ commercial on their TV.

    There was a sizable crowd of people importing Scions into Canada (myself included, got my xB last year) and I guess Scion took notice.

    Awesome commercial, btw.

  • avatar
    sutski

    I reckon these lifestyle branding ploys succeed as they make it look like all the “hip youth 20 somethings” are all using these products, so then the 30 – 40 yrs think it will make ’em look young n hip if they par-take too!

    Read “No Logo” by Naomi Klein by the way!

  • avatar
    shaker

    The ‘commercial’ was hilarious, too.

    Scion pretty much jumped the shark with the youth market when they bulbousized the xB – the tC is a dinosaur, and the xD is a rare sight (around here in PA).

    Canada might see some xD sales, but there is a lot of competition there, so Toyota needs to get the Scion-branded iQ over here to NA fast if they want the brand to survive.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    This fake commercial shows that the supposed youth market is a lot smarter than most ad reps give them credit for.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    gslippy :
    “Scion’s younger buyer theme is not bogus.”
    I only know three Scion owners besides me; all are between 40-60. I know that Toyota has previously expressed surprise at the older-than-expected demographic purchasing Scions.

    That’s interesting. I know four Scion owners besides myself – both of my brothers, my sister-in-law, my partner at work. All five of us are under 30. And none of us had purchased Toyotas before.

    As others have said, Scion has the lowest buying demographic of the market. That’s pretty difficult to argue with using anecdotal evidence.

    Interesting tidbit, however, is that, of the five of us, only one purchased a Scion post-bloat.

    None of us is remotely interested in Scion’s current offerings…so before Scion goes north, they might want to carry some cars that don’t suck.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I did not know Scions were sold under a no haggle pricing structure. Considering Scion pricing overlaps some Toyota models and both are sold from the same showroom makes me wonder how frequently buyers choose Toyota over Scion because they don’t have to pay MSRP. No loss when that happens for Toyota but I’m thinking it may be a factor in Scion sales numbers.

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