Scion Dying

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

Today’s Supra CC is a humbling reminder that Toyota has stumbled before. With all the hoopla about Chrysler’s sales being down 38% this year, its easy to overlook that Scion’s sales are crashing, down 51% this year, and a whopping 66% since its peak in 2006. That year, Scion moved 173k of its youth-oriented cool-mobiles,even if most of them went to the target buyers’ parents. This year, Scion will be lucky to sell even 57k units. Time to prune the family tree?

It’s not exactly a new issue here at TTAC: we’ve editorialized about the intrinsic limitations and pitfalls of Scion’s youth-oriented marketing repeatedly, starting back in 2004. And we haven’t exactly helped either: my review of the current xB was a bit of a shot heard around the internet world. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, but Toyota is still acting oblivious.

In a freep piece, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis speaks but does not hear (or read sales stats):

“My goal is to expand,” Hollis said. “There’s no way to say if it will be four, five or six models. We’ve got to figure out what’s the next type of buyer we want to reach and develop vehicles for them.

“We have the youngest customers in the industry.”Scion’s not about sales totals,” Hollis said. “It’s about getting a new type of customer.”

But Scion’s claims about its (relatively) youthful median buyers’ age is being disputed by Strategic Visions, which claims that the current median age of Scion buyers is a not-so-young 47. And it’s been trending higher ever since 2006. The median age of all car buyers is 54.

“Scion hasn’t been a standout for any product reason,” said Mike Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. “There hasn’t been much innovation from Scion vehicles. It made an early splash, but hasn’t shown great legs.”

“They started with a very innovative and aggressive idea,” said Stephanie Brinley of AutoPacific. “When the first vehicles were successful, they got nervous about losing sales and lost the innovation.”

Echoing our repeated Scionic mantra, Rebecca Lindland of IHS Global Insight sums it up:

There’s a disconnect between Scion’s cars and its marketing message. Creating a brand to feed buyers into Toyota and Lexus is risky…If it doesn’t work, you’re committed to a brand that loses money. We’re not sure how many additional vehicles Toyota has sold because of Scion.”Just because a brand has a mission, that doesn’t mean it will succeed.”

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Redrum Redrum on Dec 18, 2009
    Anybody that thinks no haggle pricing is a consumer benefit must think overpaying is somehow a good thing. Only if you assume MSRP = an inflated price. Nowadays the MSRP has mostly become a marketing tool to make people think they're getting a "deal", but there are also examples like the iphone/ipod where the sticker price is enforced and meaningful. Admittedly the car MSRP has been traditionally inflated in anticipation of rebates and haggling (especially for domestics), but the whole idea of a no-haggle price is that you get a reasonable, fair MSRP and thus dealers can concentrate on winning customers by providing the best SERVICE instead of promising the best price (which is unknowable anyway).
  • Geozinger Geozinger on Dec 18, 2009

    Scion was an experiment that seems to have failed. IMO, Kia has done a fantastic job of stealing the youth market for new cars. The Soul, the new Koup and even the upcoming SUV Sorrento has my eye wandering their way. I think one of the problems chasing the youth market is that they're rather fickle, moving from one fad to another. It seems to me there were similar thoughts when the wizards of the auto mall all thought young people wanted sporty coupes. There were lots of them (Ford Probe, Mitsu Eclipse, Mazda MX-6, V6 Camaros and Firebirds etc.), but they were old hat in a very short time, probably before most of the tooling was amortized. The original xB was funky enough for people to notice. Mostly grayhairs like me, not our kids. There's been plenty written about the new one, no reason to beat that horse. The xD and xA are largely forgettable and the tC is the Pontiac Sunfire of Toyota's line up. My kids don't want Scions, they want tricked out VW's, Hondas, even Jeeps. The new Kias are starting to show up on their radars, especially since they have jobs of their own and are looking for something they can afford with out a co-signer. Maybe Toyota should quietly end the Scion experiment and just bolster the bottom end of their lineup with a car that can compete against the Koreans. Or put HSD in the whole line up. That'll fix everything...

  • Tassos Jong-iL The Peninsula of One Korea.
  • Eric No, I just share my opinions. I have no use nor time for rhetoric from any side.
  • Redapple2 Jeez. This is simple. I 75 and 696 area. 1 nobody -NOBODY wants to work in downtown Detritus. 2 close to the tech ctr. Design and Engineering HQ. 20 miles closer to Milford.3 lower taxes for the employees. Lower taxes for Evil GM Vampire.4 2 major expressways give users more options to suburbs. Faster transport.Jeez.
  • Clark The Ring (Nürburgring) is the only race track I've driven on. That was 1985 or 1986 with my '73 Fiat Spider (and my not-so-happy girlfriend). So I made the Karussell (today: Caracciola Karussell, which I believe the author meant; there is another one: Kleines Karussell).
  • AZFelix This article takes me back to racing electric slot cars with friends on tracks laid out in the basement. Periodically your car would stop due to lost connections or from flying off the track and you would have to dash over to it and set it right. In the mean time your competitor would race ahead until faced with a similar problem. It seemed like you were struggling harder to keep from losing than trying to win. Fun times.“History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.” Mark Twain
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