2016 Is On Track To Be The Scion Brand's Best Year Since... Oh Wait A Second

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
2016 is on track to be the scion brand s best year since oh wait a second

Quick trivia: what’s the fastest-growing auto brand in America?

Jeep? Land Rover? GMC? Ram? Volvo?

Year-over-year, through the first four months of 2016, sales at Scion — Toyota’s 13-year-old youth-directed brand — are up 53 percent. It’s not just recovery after a poor start to 2015. Scion is on track for its best year since 2008.

Well, Scion would be on track for U.S. sales to rise to an eight-year high if, by the end of this year, Scion still existed.

But as you recall, “As part of the brand transition, beginning in August 2016, MY17 Scion vehicles will be rebadged as Toyotas.” In other words, the sales generated by Scion at the end of 2016 won’t be Scion sales at all. The experiment is over. The beakers are going back on the shelf. Lab techs have already hung up their white coats.

Just as the going is getting good. Or at least, sort of good.

The Scion corners of Toyota showrooms are currently riding a wave of iA and iM appreciation.

In March, brand-wide sales rose to a 31-month high of 7,261 units largely because of the two models that weren’t on sale at this stage one year ago. The Mazda2-based Scion iA’s 3,264 sales and the Toyota Corolla-related Scion iM’s 1,659 March sales made up more than two-thirds of the Toyota sub-brand’s U.S. volume two months ago. Overall, Scion’s cars added nearly 3,000 sales to the Toyota portfolio’s total in March 2016 as Toyota brand cars lost 12,000 sales, year-over-year.

Then, in April, Scion’s eighth consecutive month of year-over-year growth, the addition of 4,565 iA and iM sales easily cancelled out the loss of more than 2,200 sales across the rest of Scion’s lineup. (FR-S sales fell by a third. The iQ, tC, xB, and xD — none of which will find a place under the Toyota umbrella — collectively plunged 58 percent.)

Scion was America’s 30th-best-selling auto brand in April 2015. One year later, Scion ranked 26th. It’s clear, then, that Scion’s recent surge has not created a third high-volume brand for Toyota. Lexus’ most popular model, the RX crossover, handily outsells the Scion brand as a whole. In all, 10 Toyota and Lexus nameplates generated more sales between January and April of this year than the Scion brand: Camry, Corolla, RAV4, Tacoma, Highlander, Sienna, Tundra, 4Runner, RX, and Prius.

Nevertheless, with Scion’s best first-third performance since 2008, it seems a strange time for Toyota to drop the brand. Besides the iM and the increasingly popular iA, the C-HR was preparing to be Scion’s entry in the burgeoning subcompact crossover segment, where even mid-pack players produce significantly more U.S. sales volume than the most popular Scion.

Or at least, it seems like strange timing until one considers the strength of the Toyota brand and the relative weakness of the Scion badge.

Yes, the first-third of 2016 represented the best start to a year since 2008, but Scion sales so far this year are 36 percent lower than they were eight years ago and less than half as numerous as they were at Scion’s peak in 2006.

2006. When the tC, on its own, created the same level of appeal as the whole Scion brand does now. 2006. Before the xB bloated; before the Kia Soul became the better answer to the xB’s question. 2006. Before Subaru could jack up an Impreza, label it a Crosstrek, and generate more than 7,000 sales per month, more than the Scion brand.

Toyota has proven that the continuing slate of Scion products can perform decently: as a third Toyota entry in the subcompact market, as a hatchback for Corolla buyers who don’t want a trunk, and even as a niche-market sports car that — at the very least — shows Toyota knows how to undo the top button and loosen its tie on a Friday afternoon.

But Toyota doesn’t need the Scion badge to prove any of that. “Our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers,” Jim Lentz, Toyota’s North American CEO, said three months ago. Scion did, in fact, attract a younger clientele. Now, with Scion once again attracting more of those buyers, dealers need to bring them into the Toyota fold. It shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, there aren’t that many of them.

[Images: Toyota]

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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2 of 29 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on May 09, 2016

    Dead cat bounce...Scion is running giveaways on its remaining models.

  • JustPassinThru JustPassinThru on May 09, 2016

    This is rich. Announce the brand is toast...and start clearing inventory. BY CUTTING PRICES AND MAKING DEALS. Exactly the way Scions WERE NOT sold. And then, have a record sales year. Maybe...their sales model needed some reworking?

  • YellowDuck Thank goodness neither one had their feet up on the dash....
  • Zerofoo I learned a long time ago to never buy a heavily modified vehicle. Far too many people lack the necessary mechanical engineering skills to know when they've screwed something up.
  • Zerofoo I was part of this industry during my college years. We built many, many cars for "street pharmacists" that sounded like this.Excessive car audio systems are kind of like 800 HP engines. Completely unnecessary, but a hell of a lot of fun.
  • DedBull In it to win it!
  • Wolfwagen IIRC I remember reading somewhere that the Porsche Cayenne was supposed to have a small gasoline-powered block heater. There was a loop in the cooling system that ran to the heater and when the temperature got to a certain point (0°C)the vehicle's control unit would activate the heater. I dont know if this was a concept or if it ever made it into production.