The History of Scion's Sales Collapse

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
the history of scions sales collapse

Is Toyota about to officially murder the company’s fledgling Scion marque? If so, it will be both the exact outcome analysts and observers and fans predicted for years and a surprising turn of events.

After thriving for half a decade prior to the economic collapse, Scion’s poor performance in recent years led us to assume that Toyota would tire of the brand’s inability to turn a corner. But then Toyota finally reinvested in the brand, launching a sports car, a conventional hatchback with the iM, and a new Mazda2-based best seller, the iA.

Only months into the tenure of the two newest Scions, the cars which accounted for six in ten Scion sales in January, Toyota apparently realizes that the potential of the iA, iM, and even a C-HR crossover is insufficient. Joining Geo, Eagle, and Merkur on the scrap heap of failed auto brands launched by large automakers, Scion is killed off just when we thought Toyota had decided not to kill off Scion.

Initial expectations weren’t tremendously high for Scion. You’ll remember that Toyota’s initial foray with Scion wasn’t even a nationwide effort, and Scion wasn’t launched in small-car-loving Canada until late 2010. But after the small, boxy, first-generation xB was a shock hit, Toyota was rightly under the impression that they stumbled upon a well struck chord. With more than 61,000 sales in its best year, 2006, the xB was popular enough to essentially be a mainstream machine.

By that point, Scion’s third car, the tC was already even more popular. The semi-sporty two-door tC also peaked in 2006, and with nearly 80,000 sales, generated nearly half of all Scion volume.

All-Time Scion U.S. Sales By Model, Through January 2016

• tC: 418,950

• xB: 393,412

• xD: 100,730

• xA: 98,371

• FR-S: 54,820

• iQ: 15,697

• iA: 9,445

• iM: 6,347

Scion Total: 1,097,772

One year later, however, the decline began. Scion sales in 2007 tumbled 25 percent as the xB began a transition into much less desirable, bulbous, inefficient second-gen form. The tC was now in its fourth year. The xA, by far the least popular Scion to begin with, was making way for an even less popular xD.

In 2008, sales fell another 13 percent, and then the recession took hold. Hugely successful brands suffered as the market for new vehicles took a 37-percent dive between 2006 and 2010. For Scion, which offered the aging tC and poorly received replacements for their first two vehicles, sales plunged 67 percent during the same period. Economic turmoil will harm the best retail outlets, but for bit players on the outs with consumers, economic turmoil sounds like a death knell.

Except it wasn’t. By the beginning of 2012, Scion had launched the iQ, the smallest four-seater on the market. Midway through 2012, Toyota joined with Subaru in a return to true sports car dynamics, only without the torque. Subaru forsook its all-wheel-drive-only mantra to launch the BRZ; Scion launched the more popular FR-S.

And it was popular. At first. But like the overwhelming majority of performance-minded and/or style-centric machines, demand dried up quickly. Scion sold 18,327 copies of the FR-S in its first full year, 2013, but volume never again grew as high as it was in the FR-S’s first full month of June 2012, when 2,684 copies of the FR-S were sold. Scion sold fewer rear-wheel-drive coupes in all of 2015 than in the final seven months of 2012.

Again, the failure to paint newly launched models with the golden brush used on the first xB caused analysts, owners, and casual observers to wonder if this was the end of Scion.

But Toyota had a plan. Let’s make Scion normal!

The Mazda-sourced iA was Scion’s first sedan, a fourth-generation subcompact Mazda sedan which its creator previously sold in North America exclusively as a third-generation subcompact hatchback. The Toyota Auris-based iM, meanwhile, was very much Scion’s hatchback answer to Toyota’s own Corolla sedan, which couldn’t be more normal. Of the 28,575 Scions sold in America since September, 55 percent were iA sedans and iM hatchbacks.

Yet while the quick transition into a completely new approach was creating significant year-over-year sales improvements, Scion hasn’t yet returned to the totals achieved post-FR-S launch. (8,400 Scions were sold in June 2012. The best post-iA/iM month was September, with 6,510 sales.)

Moreover, Scion was selling nearly 13,000 cars per month during its best three-year span, 2005 to 2007.

It was thought that a production version of the C-HR Concept would give Scion an entry into the hot subcompact crossover market, and building on the stability provided by the conventional iA and iM, Scion would begin to approach the successes enjoyed a decade ago.

Turns out, Scion won’t be given the chance.

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

Join the conversation
2 of 28 comments
  • B534202 B534202 on Feb 03, 2016

    Wow, only a million? They shouldn't have bothered with the brand and could've spend less on marketing to sell a million more Corollas within 14 years.

  • Corollaman Corollaman on Feb 03, 2016

    When the first FR-S came out, the one price no haggle business plan went out the window, I had to drive 2 counties away to find one without a huge dealer mark up

  • Kwik_Shift I like, because I don't have to look at them. Just by feel and location while driving.
  • Dwford This is the last time we are making these, so you better hurry up and buy (until the next time we make them, that is)
  • FreedMike @Tim: "...about 40 percent of us Yanks don't live in a single-family home."Keep in mind that this only describes single family **detached** homes. But plenty of other house types offer a garage you can use to charge up in - attached single family homes (townhouses, primarily), or duplex/triplex/four-plexes. Plus, lots of condos have garages built in. Add those types of housing in and that 40% figure drops by a lot. Regardless, this points out what I've been thinking for a while now - EV ownership is great if you have a garage, and inconvenient (and more expensive) if you don't. The good news if you're looking for more EV sales is that there are literally hundreds of millions of Americans who have garages. If I had one, I'd be looking very closely at buying electric next time around.
  • Matthew N Fanetti I bought a Silver1985 Corolla GTS Hatchback used in 1989 with 80k miles for $5000. I was kin struggling student and I had no idea how good the car really was. All I knew was on the test drive I got to 80 faster than I expected from a Corolla. Slowly I figured out how special it was. It handled like nothing I had driven before, tearing up backroads at speeds that were downright crazy. On the highway I had it to about 128mph on two occasions, though it took some time to get there, it just kept going until I chickened out. I was an irresponsible kids doing donuts in parking lots and coming of corners sideways. I really drove it hard, but it never needed engine repair even to the day I sold it in 1999 with 225000 miles on it, still running well - but rusty and things were beginning to crap out (Like AC, etc.). I smoked a same year Mustang GT - off the line - by revving up and dumping the clutch. Started to go sideways, but nothing broke or even needed attention. Daily driving, only needed the clutch into first. It was that smooth and well-synced. Super tight, but drivable LSD. Just awesome from daily chores to super-fun.To this day I wish I had kept it, because now I have the money to fix it. It is hard to explain how amazing this car was back in the day - and available to people with limited money - and still the highest quality.
  • Cprescott Well, duh. You will pay more to charge a golf cart than an ICE of the same size if you charge externally. Plus when you factor in the lost time, you will pay through the nose more than an ICE on lost opportunity costs. Golf car ownership savings is pure myth.