NEWS: RIP Scion, 2003-2016

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Scion is dead. After 13 years, Toyota announced this morning that the alternative, youth-oriented, no-haggle brand would be killed off and most of its products — some very recently launched — rolled under the Toyota marque. 

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Toyota is describing Scion as “a laboratory to explore new products and processes to attract youth customers” that has achieved its “goals of developing unique products and processes, and bringing in new, younger customers to Toyota” and thus will be now “transitioning back to the Toyota brand.”

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Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz, who was a founding vice president of Scion when it launched, said, “I was there when we established Scion and our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers. I’m very proud because that’s exactly what we have accomplished.”

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So what happens to the cars? Well, most of them will survive. By August 2016, newly launched cars such as the Mazda2 sedan-based iA and the Toyota Auris-based iM hatchback will be re-branded as Toyotas and continue going on sale. Years from now, people will probably boast about owning a rare, one-year only Scion-badged example of these cars.

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The FR-S sports coupe will also move under the Toyota umbrella. It’s not clear yet whether the FR-S name will remain, or if it will be called the GT86 or simply 86 (as it’s called in Europe and Japan, respectively). In any case, it is a move that many JNC readers feel should have been made right from the beginning when the car launched.

Part of this is because the famed AE86 that served as inspiration for the FR-S was always a Toyota. Also, that “86” badge on the fender really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when the numbers don’t appear anywhere else on the car, its owners manuals, or advertising materials whatsoever. Some even went so far as say it should be called Celica. We will soon see.

2011 Scion tC TRD 01

As for the Scion tC, well, pour a shot of 87 octane on the curb because this tuner favorite is being put out to pasture. There will be a final release edition this summer, after which production will end in August. It was announced in 2014 that the current-gen xB would be its last iteration, and the xB will stay dead.

2004 Scion xB brochure cover

Oh Scion, we hardly knew ye. We will miss your off-kilter artist-collab advertising and free house music CDs that no one ever listened to. We think of the auto industry as slow-moving, working on years-long product cycles. Even as recently as last November, Toyota was still debuting Scion-badged concepts like the C-HR at major auto shows. These reveals often have a year-long lead times, and the iA and iM just started going on sale in December. But it just goes to show, quick decisions with far-reaching consequences can still be made extremely quickly.

Thirteen years is a long time. Daihatsu only lasted six years in the US market. Speaking of which, does this have anything to do with Toyota’s announcement last week that it was going to buy Daihatsu and a global small car brand? We are reaching out to Toyota for comment and will update if any new information arises.

 

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28 Responses to NEWS: RIP Scion, 2003-2016

  1. DerrickS said:

    Actually I would assume those “86” numbers do appear in the owners manual under the engine specifications, right?

    And on page 86… badda bing!

  2. Ryan Senensky said:

    Actually I found my favorite band ever from a Scion Sampler CD. One thing I liked about Scion was that they were great at importing a lot of JDM Toyotas that would never had made it to America otherwise, ie: Toyota Ist and Toyota bB.

  3. Scotty G said:

    Coming soon to an “orphan” car show near you..

    What a shame, they just came out with a couple of great looking cars, in my opinion. I wonder what happened, maybe their target market moved a few decades up in age and that wasn’t what they were hoping for. Like iPhones and Facebook, the average age of Scion owners seemed to be in their mid-60s or more. I know that young folks owned them, and I’m basing that totally on my own personal sightings, which is about as non-scientific of a study as you can get. I hate to see a brand go away for any reason.

  4. Invinciblejets said:

    “Shot of 87 octane” hahaha

  5. Nathan Judy said:

    At the risk of being an old grump, I’m about to drop a truth bomb:

    The whole positive spin wreaks of PR. It’s pretty clear that the Scion “experiment” was a disaster early on. Sales were never great and dealers didn’t like being stuck with product they couldn’t move, a restriction Toyota eventually lifted. The FR-S was the only car that had sustainable, profitable sales.

    Were its vehicles designed for and marketed to a slightly older demographic and had the recession not hit so hard, perhaps things would have turned out differently for Scion, although I doubt it. Young people might be interested in new cars, but it doesn’t mean they have the money to buy them. Targeting a demographic – young people who have money to buy a new car – that doesn’t exist in any meaningful way is the kind of brainless thinking I would have expected from GM, not Toyota. Perhaps the company will realize the error of its ways, now that it has a new leader, and do what it should have done all along: continue to make reliable vehicles, but put some fun back in the brand. At least the GT86/86/FR-S/BRZ was a step in the right direction.

    • Ant said:

      I’m not overly familiar with the US market, but didn’t the original xB sell well? I always got the impression that the xB (the original in particular) was the Scion everyone actually liked, before the FR-S came along.

      • Nathan Judy said:

        It was popular initially because there was nothing like it in the US market, but every car that wasn’t an FR-S in their lineup failed to sell well for multiple years in a row lately.

  6. I once tried to drive anorth XB when they were introduced during their first year. I didn’t like it because the gas and brake pedals were absolutely stiff. And it’s automatic shifting was terrible. Only good thing about it was how they looked and the interior was nice.

  7. Power Tryp said:

    Honestly the thing I’ll miss about Scion most is their guerrilla marketing. They had but one car in their lineup in 13 years that truly captured people but man they were great at making you feel like you wanted one of their front wheel drive appearance boxes that the xA and xB were.

    Even today I can still see the cars rolling while the wheels, trim and shifter knobs morphed to tell you that you can make this car you. Sadly the cars sucked.

    Anyway, that style of marketing persisted up until a few years ago even and I’ll just leave a link where a couple friends of mine were driver coaches for a Scion contest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3bT14Kz7oE

  8. cesariojpn said:

    I think Scion should’ve been an “entry” level brand to the Toyota (and Lexus) brands. Cheap kei cars that could be “federalized” thru the stupid US regs and be sold to get first time and budget owners a good car for a cheap price.

    Scion unfortunately went full baka with the youth brand and not expanding the marketing for everyone. Wasn’t the first gen xB actually a hit with elderly folks cause the toaster was actually a good fit for many of them?

    • Nathan Judy said:

      The harsh reality is that there’s no way a kei car or something similar would sell well enough in the US to justify the R&D costs of making it US road legal. Crash regs would be a nightmare and with all the large cars on our roads, including lifted trucks, sales would be all but nonexistent. Emissions would be another obstacle.

    • Randy said:

      I think it WAS considered the “Entry Level” brand, geared toward the youth market. Lower prices with “Pure Pricing” (no haggling), and factory/dealer support to accessorize it. Take a look at the aftermarket for lights, grilles, etc.

      My xA was $13K, with 5-speed, power windows and locks, A/C, and a good stereo (though too much bass, IMO). Probably the best VALUE out there at the time for me.

      I’d read about the senior set liking the xB, as well, and what’s not to like? Good interior space that you don’t need a ladder to get into, or a winch to pull you out, and its boxy shape meant it was easy to judge where the ends are, and again, the price…

      That same appeal may have worked against Scion, though, as the “yutes” didn’t want to be seen in grandpa’s car…

  9. Glenn said:

    It’s the ‘youth brand’ marketing strategy that just did not work. Where do the youth get their money? Their parents. Just marketing towards parents as a reliable, safe and affordable entry level car would have been great, but Toyota already did this with the Corolla. Including the cars, xB and xA, simply as alternatives to the Corolla as Toyotas might have also worked out well. Also, I’m curious as to where the cars were designed and how that correlates to success. I often find myself more attracted to Japanese designed Japanese cars than the California designed Japanese cars—example the first generation xB vs the second generation.

    • Nathan Judy said:

      Their parents? Most parents do not buy new cars for their kids. When you can pick up a used Corolla, Civic, or other compatible car in good condition for $10k or less used (and that’s after any initial maintenance costs (springs, struts, brakes, etc.)? Even if one is looking at a newer used car, perhaps $15k-16k? How is Toyota supposed to justify the R&D costs, marketing expenses, etc. for a car that cheap? To even try to get a profit margin of a few pennies, build quality and materials would have to suffer to 1990s GM levels at least. That’s dragging the company name through the mud at what probably amounts to a massive loss.

      • Nathan Judy said:

        Also, as you pointed out, it’s competing with the Corolla in some ways. Competition with oneself is never a good idea. Just ask British Leyland how that turned out. Haha!

      • Randy said:

        Maybe not so much “their parents,” though the ‘rents might be helping with the payments, but a BRAND NEW(!) Scion vs. a 3 year old Corolla isn’t a bad choice. Similar price, plus a longer financing term, for a car that doesn’t have an unknown history…

  10. Randy said:

    While I’ll miss having another brand on the market, I don’t think it was unexpected… I’d read that sales were disappointing.

    To my mind, it was in no small part due to the downright weird advertising. The cars seemed less the focus of the ads, and more a part of a music video. MORE ads could have helped, too, as I only remember like, 2 ads running during the entire life of the brand.

    They COULD have marketed the xA, xB and xD for their cargo-and-passenger capacity. My xA is GREAT for Sam’s Club runs, and the xB was downright CAVERNOUS. Just imagine if they hadn’t shorted the U.S.; sent over the AWD models as a smaller alternative to SUVs and CUVs. Probably would have cut into RAV sales, though.

    I’d have kept the tC. Maybe renamed it Celica, with the 86 remaining the 86 (no change). Tooling’s already paid for, I’m sure, so it would be no big deal to just keep it going. Just had a thought: COULD have had a factory-option list: AWD, turbo, luxury interior, etc., for those who have the money, but want something sportier than a Lexus.

    • Scotty G said:

      You nailed it, in my opinion. I love the style of both the xA and xB, but I would have loved to have them in AWD for those of us that get several months of snow a year in the northern states of the US; all 100-million+ of us. An xA in AWD would have been super cool and the original xB in AWD would have been fantastic!

      • Randy said:

        Well, if you don’t have one, and you can find one in good shape for under $5K, I’d say go for it. Put GOOD snow tires all around, some weight over the back wheels (’cause it’s THAT light back there), get the paint super-waxed for winter, and you should be good for MOST of what winter throws at you.

        Check the underside for rust, especially where those plastic rocker panel “covers” are. Even if there’s SOME rust, if it isn’t too bad, there are detailing products to chemically remove the rust, then treat/paint the area. Even if it ain’t pretty, if it’s the winter/”utility” vehicle, it’d be a good choice.

        . . . And with the cargo capacity, one GOOD Sam’s/Costco run could mitigate the need to do extraneous driving in the winter. Sit home with the hot chocolate and watch the world slide by – sometimes literally.

        • Scotty G said:

          Ouch… slide, my wife was in a minor chain-reaction crash yesterday with our year-old Crosstrek. Why we still live in the upper-Midwest I’ll never know.

          • Randy said:

            Move ta Pittsburgh! We’ve had ONE snow this year – about 4″. That’s not normal (“El Nino!”), but it’s honestly RARELY as hideous as you get.

            Hope the wife’s okay…

            Just my suggestion, if you don’t have them: WINTER tires; all-seasons are just way too much of a compromise.

          • Randy said:

            BTW, they’re not popular from what I see, but *I* like Crosstreks.

          • Scotty G said:

            I’m usually in Pittsburgh once a year for photos and I have another assignment coming up this spring. It’s a great town (town = huge city).
            Yeah, I agree, winter tires are a must have; unfortunately, we don’t have them on the Subarus – dumb.

          • Randy said:

            Here’s a thought: drop to a smaller size wheel – maybe 15s? – to open up a whole range of tires. Cheaper, too! I actually think the factory wheels are too nice for something designed to go even somewhat off-road.

            Huge city? Pittsburgh. . . ? Man, you must live in Mayberry… I’m jealous… 🙂

  11. Aaron said:

    HOORAY!!!!

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