By on February 3, 2016

2005 Scion xB

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.

2014 Scion FR-S

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.

2016_Scion_iM_Alberta-5

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 GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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28 Comments on “The History of Scion’s Sales Collapse...”


  • avatar
    nicktcfcsb

    Ahh, I’ll miss the “You have just been passed by a toaster” bumper stickers.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I really wanted an new Scion Xb at one point, despite the central instrument cluster.

    However, Scion’s (Toyota’s) refusal to offer any deals on Scions ended that. The manufacturer’s interest rate on new car loans for Scions was actually greater than that for Toyotas.

    If I could have purchased an Xb or even an Xd with the same deal that they were offering on Corollas or Yaris (Yari?), I would have.

    What kind of sales/marketing support is that?

  • avatar
    threeer

    Hmmm…maybe some good discounts on Scion-badged iA or iM coming up? I *kinda* like the iM, if I could find one with a stick. I know the iA is the better driver, but I just can’t warm up to the style.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The old fogies looked around and realized all the other Scions are driven by old fogies too. Last week I saw an xB with the vinyl sticker on the back window, “No This is NOT My Grandson’s Car!”. Yeah no sh!t.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      That’s how it usually works out, and it makes sense – people too young and too old to have kids have similar needs. Scion still had a remarkably young average buyer age, with 50% of those buyers under 35.

  • avatar

    I think their “Pure Price” strategy was their biggest downfall. Load up a Corolla S with incentives and most folks would rather walk 10 feet over and save more money.

    TRD should be much happier if they can get their stuff on a factory-blessed Corolla after all this.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m glad someone finally pointed this out. Despite the loud complaining by a few, the majority of consumers want to haggle. Does the process create some animosity? Of course. If neither party in negotiation gets their feathers ruffles, someone left money on the table.

      Saturn didn’t always have great product. But when they came out with the Aura, the had a competitive vehicle. Consumers eschewed it by the thousands preferring the abuse they got at the Honda/Toyota/Nissan stores for the perception of the “deal.”

      I told SCION in the beginning, as well as Toyota in Japan, that so called One Price would work fine as long as THEY (Toyota) had the discipline to produce one less vehicle than they could sell naturally, without incentives or discounting. They heard the same thing from others. They obviously didn’t have the discipline.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    I see we’ve started the Scion death-watch…a little late. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/the-case-for-killing-scion-and-letting-prius-live/

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/scion-deathwatch-2011-scion-tc-design-inspiration-discovered/

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Interesting how Scion pioneered the subcompact box on wheels with the xB, then fumbled badly with the redesign. Kia then picked up the ball with the Soul, and it’s been a winner ever since.

  • avatar
    tedward

    This is great news for the Toyota brand in my opinion. Car enthusiasts look at scion and say there’s a Toyota, Mazda or Subaru. That’s fine, the problem is that non car people don’t look at the frs and think, “wow Toyota is upping their game”. There isn’t enough image overlap between the two brands for the scion fun halo to benefit the parent brand. Toyota is the brand in need of an image youthening, and should be jealously hoarding those more engaging models. At least make full use of their limited profitability.

    Scion would have made more sense as a upmarket brand or a down market alternative. There’s not any room under the yaris or corolla to go the second route though, and lexus already exists. It’s Pontiac all over again, and where dodge is headed if fca fails to keep the large rwd platforms and fleet sales in play.

    Its not like vw in Europe where the main brand price overlaps with the premium make, leaving room for Skoda and seat. Come to think of it, that doesn’t seem to work there either with regards to seat.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The point of Scion was to be a starter car for Gen Y and to bring them into the TMC family of products — start with a Scion, trade up later to a Toyota or Lexus.

      It was also an experiment with no-haggle pricing and dealer-based customization, borrowing from some aspects of how cars are sold in Japan.

      Scion did have the youngest demographics in the industry, but not many total buyers. Having an economic implosion six years into it didn’t help, as few of those in its target market could afford to buy new cars.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    My Father, who methodically killed my Mother and got away with it, purchased this exact xB pictured above after he killed her. The sight of a silver xB still sickens me when I see it. I always hoped he would be hit by an 18 wheeler and killed as well in that stupid xB. Funny how authorities looked the other way, simply because of his wealth.(a few million) He purchased the xB after selling his Ram truck and her Lincoln Town Car. He is a cheap man. That is why he got the xB, and why he got rid of her. Her health problems were taking too much of his money. I don’t know if he still has the xB. We have been estranged since her death in 2005.
    Anyway, the death of Scion is a good thing. It was dumb to begin with. Toyota has a great reputation with small cars. The Scion brand was not needed to begin with.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    “You don’t know what you got till its gone” Rip Scion, Saturn, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Mercury, and so on.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    They found almost 16,000 suckers to buy Scion iQs?!?!?!

    Holy crap!

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    I must have a gift for picking out the automotive winners.

    Must be a genetic thing. Dad had a ’52 and a ’56 Studebaker.

    I played with Corvairs when they were at the bottom of their depreciation curve.

    Had a ’53 Kaiser too.

    ’73 Pontiac Lemans longroof. In brown.

    ’79 Bonneville.

    Have an ’09 XB. Which, BTW I have found to be a good car albeit built to a price point.

    See a pattern here?

    Maybe I can trade it in on a Hudson or a Borgward…

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    The 2nd gen xB is a perfectly fine car. It’s also not a ‘design failure’ even though that meme seems to be automotive folklore at this point. In it’s first design year it pushed out 45K copies, which matched the previous model’s average. If it was horrific and atrocious it wouldn’t have sold that well to start, ugly design = less sales up front. This is why the whole meme is such a failure.

    The better and atleast supportable argument is two-fold. 2009 models were just beginning to be sold when the market crashed in 2008. Recession crunched the new car market and a brand new xB was bottom-dollar still 18K. The second and arguably bigger issue was the Kia Soul. A several hundred million dollar ad campaign with some of the most recognizable figures in the last decade of advertising along with a 4-5K less entry point setup the xB for failure. The fact that the xB got caught in between these two huge boulders of problems is what got it killed.

    The pure pricing sealed it’s fate, if they were willing to eat 2K in incentives the xB would have been throwing down with the Kia for sure instead of simply dying a slow death.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      So nothing about the poor fuel economy? Lackluster 2.4L and 4 speed auto didn’t get it killed?

      And no when a vehicle looks the same when it first came out, it wouldn’t have “thrown down” on the Soul. The fact that KIA continually updates the Soul (to make it a better car) with features and design sealed the fate of the xB.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        2008 Fuel economy was actually OK for it’s size. They left it to wither on the vine for sure. My point was that styling didn’t kill it nor did growing a bit bigger. It was the soul’s competition (and really, the soul got updated because it was a HUGE hit for them).

        I’ve lifetime averaged a bit over 24 combined with it over 85K miles. It’s not great but for 2008 facing other small SUVs (which is what it competes against) it was solid. Now it’s antiquated because they made a conscious decision.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I’m one of the few people who think the revised xB (2nd gen) looks SO much better then the original. The first one was a box on wheels… literally, its like they didn’t even try. The 2nd generation was boxy but in a cool, kind of retro way. I never understood the hate for the 2nd gen but a lot of people point to the mileage going downhill and the fact that it (like every other vehicle) got fatter. However it was always a brick of a vehicle with a small engine in it, so I’m not sure what got people’s expectations of the mileage so out of place.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        The Gen1 cultists are what drive the ‘Gen2 is ugly’ meme. It’s really not an actual argument, it’s just something a very dedicated group of fans keep saying. I mean, the Kia Soul stole the Gen2 styling much more than Gen1, even then Gen1 looks like it belongs from something nearly a decade prior. The fit and finish is fine but it was old when it got here.

        The mileage for a small SUV was alright. I’m not sure what they were expecting. I’m going over the EPA mileage rates….It’s actually verging on the high-end for it’s class and size. By 2012/13 it was lagging behind aggressively which is true but when it was first brought out it was a fine average.

    • 0 avatar
      akatsuki

      Its packaging was crappy compared to the first gen. I think it was better looking, but the first was the better car by far…

  • avatar
    thelastdriver

    Scion started off as the perfect brand for Toyota to sell their weird vehicles in the American market.

    I grew up in the late 80’s when there were plenty of weird Corolla/Camry/Tercel variants on the road. Ever hear of a Camry Wagon All-Trac?

    Those “non-appliance” models are where Scion fit in. Low volume and a slightly higher price than their appliance counterparts. Then they made toasters.

  • avatar
    b534202

    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.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    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

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