“Iron, Lion, Scion” — Bob Marley


The news that Scion was dead leaked Tuesday night. Few outlets dared report it because it seemed too crazy to be true. At every single auto show last year, representatives continued to reassure the press and public that they were doubling down with new models, new campaigns, new investments. But it was true, and the fate of individual models was unknown.

We at JNC had a good “virtual water cooler” conversation about Scion’s failings over the Slack app that night, flowing into the next morning when the news was confirmed. It turned into a discussion about the tuner era and the missteps of the other Japanese automakers as well. Here it is, printed in its entirety (with minor edits for spelling and grammar), below. 

February 2, 2016

ben (Ben Hsu) [10:55 PM]
Toyota Gives Scion Brand the Axe
Toyota has decided to drop the youth-targeted Scion brand after nearly 13 years.
Holy shit!

snorkelingsarcosuchus (Dave Yuan) [11:00 PM]

ben [11:01 PM]
No one else is reporting this. Not sure how true it is.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [11:01 PM]
Hopefully the FRS replacement (if there is one) keeps coming here
You haven’t heard anything about this?

ben [11:02 PM]
No. I’ve been around auto journalists all day and no one said a word. This story was just published 22 minutes ago.

darikr (Ricky Silverio) [11:08 PM]
Going to Subaru dealer now.

ben [11:17 PM]
If this is real, it’s pretty insane. The iM and iA have barely hit the market and they just unveiled the C-HR concept in LA like three months ago.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [11:22 PM]
Maybe it won’t take effect immediately?
I like the iM…and the iA. And can’t imagine the dealers who put in the investment would be happy about this. On top of that, this’d be like Toyota admitting defeat.

ben [11:32 PM]
I guess we’ll see tomorrow at 9am

February 3rd, 2016

darikr [12:02 AM]
This will be the next round of JNC in 30 years!! Buy every XB you can see and put in sealed warehouse for Bonhams in 30 years

ben [7:00 AM]
It’s official.
Scion Brand to Transition to Toyota
Scion, established as a separate brand in 2003 as a laboratory to explore new products and processes to attract youth customers, is now transitioning back to the Toyota brand.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [7:19 AM]
Phew! They’ll all just be rebadged as Toyotas.

ben [7:24 AM]
I’m posting on it now.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [8:09 AM]
To be honest, I was never really convinced by the Scion branding. I liked that we got some new models–namely the original xB–but otherwise it felt a bit gimmicky.
The ​*youth-oriented*​ thing was like a self-imposed limitation on their marketing, when some of their cars had pretty broad appeal.

ben [8:29 AM]
That is true about the self-imposed limits, but the marketing was ingenious, I thought.
I mean, you take a tiny Japanese car that is almost comically small for US roads and make it somehow cool with tattooed punk rock kids and skaters?

snorkelingsarcosuchus [8:53 AM]
That’s a good point.
That was the result of deliberate marketing. But do you think they couldn’t have pulled it off badging those cars as Toyotas?
I’m not really criticizing them. I’m wondering.

ben [8:57 AM]
Well, at the time Toyota’s entire marketing direction was dependability. The average age of buyers was approaching Buick levels.
They needed something that would shake things up, and I think Scion did that. There were many non-traditional advertising methods, like pop-ups in hip areas of big cities and music festivals.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [8:58 AM]
That’s the narrative, with data on age to back it up.

ben [8:58 AM]
I’ve never seen a car company advertise like that. I don’t know if it would’ve worked with the Toyota brand.
Imagine if Buick all of a sudden started doing that. It would ring hollow.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:00 AM]
But I’d say even around late 90s, when I was coming out of high school in SoCal, kids still worshipped Japanese cars. Even if most of it was off the earlier momentum.

ben [9:00 AM]
I don’t think it was about THOSE kids. Nothing in Scion’s original lineup was performance oriented.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:00 AM]
I think in market like that, they could’ve maybe pulled it off w/ just Toyota if they catch lightning in a bottle.
Yeah, true.
I think that was why I wasn’t really convinced. Some of it was ostensibly performance oriented tho.

ben [9:03 AM]
The kids you’re talking about made tuning Japanese cars cool. But there were plenty of others who wanted in on that scene (thanks to F&F) but didn’t really love cars. They just liked the rebellious and individualistic aspect of modding. Those were the ones who flocked to Scion. The early modded xAs and xBs were really just forms of expression, with nothing performance oriented about them.
I do think Japanese automakers could have totally captured that market, but they are dumb. Look at Honda in the 90s. They never once acknowledged the loyal following they had.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:04 AM]
Yeah, that’s kinda what I’m saying.

ben [9:04 AM]
Nissan could have owned drifting when it first came to the US, but Ford spotted something cool and ran with it.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:04 AM]
Around the time Scion started, it wasn’t too late to salvage that.
And in my head, I was thinking, “why are they doing this instead of salvaging their legacy?” I wasn’t thinking about marketing or anything like that.

ben [9:06 AM]
Yeah, me too, but the cars Toyota were introducing as Scions weren’t heritage at all. It was just a way to sell compacts to kids.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:06 AM]
In fact, I and a few friends went to see them when they first came out.
I loved the xB, which was so tiny, I looked like a giant standing next to it. And one of my friends said to another, the tC is perfect for your (50-year old) dad.
I guess my point is that Scion felt like a marketing people’s lineup. And what they created was a pretty good marketing exercise. To me, it was akin to the MINI scheme.
But had they been able to pull the same thing off w/ just Toyota, the impact now would be much greater.

ben [9:11 AM]
Yeah, I think we’re arriving at the same intersection.
The Japanese automakers totally ignored the goodwill they had with the tuner community in the 90s. Subaru and Mitsubishi were the only ones that listened and they brought over the Evo and STI.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:12 AM]
That was pretty great.
It was like all of a sudden, our dreams came true (w/ those cars).
I remember Toyota did kinda try w/ just Toyota.
I have this brochure w/ MRS, Celica, and something else that was very “youth-oriented.”

ben [9:14 AM]
Speaking of Subaru, they are a good example of what we are talking about. They have two completely opposite demographics on lock — the granola, gay-friendly, outdoorsy treehuggers, and on the complete other end of the spectrum, tattooed bros that love burning fossil fuels.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:14 AM]

ben [9:16 AM]
The Venn diagram of those groups is probably just two circles.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:16 AM]

ben [9:16 AM]
But somehow Subaru pulled it off. I guess Toyota could have attempted something like that.

snorkelingsarcosuchus [9:17 AM]
That would’ve been cool.

This post is filed under: jnc and
tagged: , .

14 Responses to “Iron, Lion, Scion” — Bob Marley

  1. AE86 Racer says:

    “Speaking of Subaru, they are a good example of what we are talking about. They have two completely opposite demographics on lock — the granola, gay-friendly, outdoorsy treehuggers, and on the complete other end of the spectrum, tattooed bros that love burning fossil fuels.” – Ben

    I love it! hahahahaha

  2. Scotty G says:

    Ha, I totes adorbs.. er.. cough.. I mean, I totally agree with the buy-every-xB-and-put-it-in-temperature-and-mouse-controlled-storage for a decade or two. But, wait until I buy a couple of them first. I don’t care how they drive or anything else, I just think that they plain look cool and that’s all that matters to me, car-wise; in general.

  3. mrbill says:

    I love that you posted this conversational thread. It’s great to see the back and forth and hear your points of view. Good stuff…and I’d have to say that I agree. I think Toyota did a good thing here, overall. They earned some sporty tuner respect they had lost and are bringing this love back to the home brand. I wish other Japanese manufacturers would show some love to the segment…cough(Nissan)…cough(Honda)…cough(Nissan).

    • Ben Hsu says:

      Thanks! We just started using Slack recently. Since the JNC team is spread out across the world, it’s a good way to chat as if we were the same office. We hope to do more of this whenever something newsworthy happens.

  4. Dimitry says:

    The Subaru comment killed me lol
    Thanks for posting this!

  5. Mazdax605 says:

    How could you have missed the obvious headline of “Scionara”

  6. YaBoyYeti says:

    As an 2nd gen xb owner, I can say that there is nothing really “youth oriented” luckily its a 5spd or I would ball my eyes out. The engine is a cookie cutter dual cam that revs up to 7.5 rpm. with the lamest gear box. I think it would have saved more gas if they added a 6th speed. Granted it would bump it up the price bracket, but so what. As for Scion, it makes sense for Toyota to drop the brand. I mean the cars (apart from the frs) were lacking in originality. When Lexus came out they were freakin revolutionary,that ls look like a camry but it had ‘that auroa’. kinda like seeing a person but you know ‘they’ have a ‘story’ to tell. Lexus had that swagger. Scion doesn’t. Maybe Daihatsu will have no swagger. Although I would like to see more Kei cars here in California. (NOT IN THE FACE, thats how I make my livings- Rip Colonel Cotton Hill)

  7. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    RIP Scion. My Gen-1 Xb was one of the best cars I ever owned. I really regret selling it to this day. I moved on to a Lexus but honestly, the Xb was a better car. I was also seriously interested in the iQ but the US package with no manual transmission and lame CV transmission killed my hopes. It also got lame mileage for all the smallness. My father owned a Gen-2 Xb but alas, it was such a disappointment, he sold it. Too big and worse mileage than Gen-1. Eyes off the prize. If this is some way to coerce me into a Camry, it’s a massive fail.

    • Randy says:

      Wow – think about what you said in those first 2 lines… The “xB was a better car,” than a Lexus. Seems like that’s a HUGE statement about them.

      My mother thought the iQ was just TOO cute, until I showed her the MPG comparison, and how much more could be packed into the back of the Yaris. As a commuter for someplace like NYC, I could see it, but as a strict value proposition, I think it was Dead On Arrival. I *MIGHT* be coerceable (sp?) into one if it was stupid-cheap, just as a runaround. Park it on the porch, just to jack with the neighbors…

      Were they CVT-only due to space restrictions, or would they be uncontrollable with the 5-speed? Admittedly, I don’t think I even looked at the home market page for the car…

      Just a thought: iQ could’ve been interesting as an electric, a la Mitsubishi I-Miev…

      • Randy says:

        I *JUST* checked the .jp site. Six-speed manual available, and a 2-seater at what I’ll equate to about $14K U.S., and a different, high-MPG model. Interesting, but still high in price.

  8. Robert says:

    Scion hasn’t done a thing for me since the original xB… I like the FR-S, but It was only a matter of time.. Now let’s hope Toyota turns this into something positive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *