The Case For Killing Scion And Setting Prius Free

John Barnett
by John Barnett
the case for killing scion and setting prius free

As I bent down to get a better look at the FT-1’s rear three-quarter, I could see the Scion display in the background, far away and slightly out of focus-an ironic metaphor for a brand that had nothing new on display at the show. Their product line, aside from the FR-S, was aging and seemed to lack any of the real quirkiness the brand had when it was launched.

This got me thinking – what exactly was the point of Scion today? Toyota’s marketing of the Corolla seems targeted at the same buyer that would have traditionally considered a Scion – fun, youthful, charismatic and a bit on the odd side. (Notice, I didn’t use ‘hipster’!)

The Sales Data

Scion isn’t doing well. Actually they’re doing horrible.

Sales in 2013 were down 60% from a high in 2006. But not to worry Mr. Toyoda, I have a solution!

1. (Quietly) Kill Scion.

Yes, it’s time to cut the brand loose. Sales are faltering and other than FR-S, the brand doesn’t appear to have any product that will save it.

2. Replace Scion with Prius

Prius has become synonymous with fuel-efficiency and being green. Since the brand expanded the lineup with C and V, they’ve dwarfed Scion’s best year by 60,000 models. Making Prius a standalone brand will allow Toyota to further define and hone the consumer message on efficiency and explore new product offerings.

3. Build Prius CUV, Prius FR-E (EV FR-S) and small (very) light-duty ‘van’

Now that Prius is a standalone brand it needs just a few more products. The first is a capable CUV that could be loosely based on the RAV4, but should be redesigned to maintain the Prius aerodynamics and style as best as possible.

Second, consider an EV-powered version of the FR-S. Replace the Subaru engine with a performance-oriented EV package. Allow FR-S to fall under the Toyota brand during its mid-model refresh as a medium-priced ‘fun’ car to set under whatever the FT-1 will become.

If Toyota can make a business case for a larger MPV, designed more for delivery (Postal Service, delivery, etc) explore a bare bones HFE-MPV (50MPG+) delivery vehicle.

Have you lost your mind?

No,well, maybe. But Toyota certainly has if they think they can revive Scion to any level of relevancy. The FR-S was a valiant effort, but lets be real, it’s a niche product whose supply will soon meet demand.

Fuel economy isn’t only important for CAFE, but also for consumers. With an almost inevitable gas tax increase and some form of global conflict always on the horizon, fuel economy will always be important to those who think beyond the now. But high MPGs is just a small part of what the Prius brand could become.

In my vision, Prius would become a sustainable lifestyle brand, offering not just cars but other products and technologies in the area of transposition, sustainability and overall efficient/green living. The goodwill benefits of running a sustainable lifestyle brand would outweigh what, if any, benefits Scion could currently offer Toyota Motors Corporation.

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  • Wscott97 Wscott97 on Jan 20, 2014

    @ CelticPete "Matrix was simply useless for me. It was incredibly painful to try to fit in. Granted I am taller then average but it was one of those Japanese car for the Japanese" Comments like these are a huge pet peeve for me. You must be a 400 pound and over 7' tall to make a comment like that. I'm 6' tall and I fit in my CIVIC just fine. My friend and her husband are over 300 pounds and drives a MATRIX, another friend who is 6'7" rolls around in a Prius. It's not painful to get into.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jan 20, 2014

      Back in '02, when the Matrix/Vibe was a relatively new model, I truly liked what I saw. It was compact, sporty, had AWD and seemed to have the carrying capacity I really wanted at a reasonable price. However... When I went to my Pontiac dealer to test drive the Vibe, they didn't have a manual transmission model on hand and so was forced to drive one with an automatic. To be blunt, it was grossly underpowered with an automatic. While there, I also test drove an Aztec--significantly larger, had AWD and a V6. Again, due to being automatic transmission only, it was GROSSLY underpowered. So many things I liked about it, but their insistence on automatic transmissions and such tiny wheels under such a big body made for a very weak vehicle. But we're not really talking about the Aztek. From the Pontiac dealer, I went to Toyota, where it was obvious the Matrix was effectively the same car. On the other hand, while they did have a manual transmission model in stock, it was a much higher trim level (and thus significantly more expensive) and they refused to let me test drive it. They too did not get my business. I ended up buying a Saturn Vue at a retail price of just over $16K with almost everything I wanted on board, including a manual transmission. The Opel L-4 combined with an Opel sport transaxle gave it surprising acceleration and 30mpg economy. I put over 130,000 miles on it with no out-of-warranty repairs short of replacing the battery and it still has the original clutch plates--though they're now due for replacement. You really can get a desirable car for a reasonable price. The Vue was large enough to comfortably fit my wife (over 6' tall) and even go to Ikea and carry flat-pack 8' bookshelves inside with the tailgate closed. A remarkable vehicle almost unmatched by any similarly-sized vehicle today. I'll grant that Scion's vehicles can't match that 12-year-old Vue for capability but they still offer fun, roominess and economy at a very reasonable price. Give it another couple of years and you should see a small surge in the Scion's sales to start balancing around 90K to 100K annually. I'll grant that's not a large market, but it's still a larger market than many other vehicles here in the US.

  • Pete Zaitcev Pete Zaitcev on Jan 20, 2014

    IMHO the main thing Scion needs is to divorce dealerships from Toyota's. The line staff at dealerships plain hates selling Scions and sabotage it any way they can (either consciously or not realizing it).

  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
  • Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs
  • Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.
  • El scotto Tesla has one team making EV's because that is all Tesla does. Farley -rolls eyes- decided to split Ford into two huge warring factions: ICE vs EV. Hey Jimbo, it says "FORD" on the buildings.Lord only knows what GM did internally because it's GM. I'm betting it's like Ford pitting ICE vs EVs. With GM being GM every existing division will be divided.Stellantis will keep building Challengers and Rams. Someday they may figure out that Jeep is the fugu fish of the automotive sushi world and unload to some Chinese. EV's? no, not really.If this site was The Truth About HVAC (TTAH) some on here would tell us that central heating and air causes unknown illnesses, will be bad, and cause a degradation of our nation's moral fiber. By golly they shoveled coal and carry ash buckets and that shouldn't change.
  • El scotto -channeling my inner Kenneth Mars- It is a coupe because Merzedes say's it est une kupe! Quiet schweinhunds! Dis is zee best kupe in zee vorld! Merzedes says so! Zee best or nothing Mein Herrs!