Scion is either a distinct brand or a sub-brand of Toyota, depending on the way that you examine it. Scions are registered under their own nameplate, but Toyota treats it as a sub-brand. Furthermore, not every Toyota dealership carries Scion, the only place you will find them.
At the Beginning
The Scion marque was launched in 2002 to great fanfare. It was Toyota’s attempt to capture the youth market, particularly customers who weren’t necessarily drawn to small Toyota moniker models such as the Corolla or the then Echo (now Yaris).
Initially, Scion found success with its xA hatchback, xB wagon and tC sport coupe. Sales topped 170,000 units in 2006. But four years later those numbers had plummeted to just under 46,000 units as the patina quickly diminished. Pundits felt that Toyota had lost sight of what Scion was about. New models from competitors, including the Kia Soul, also swiped sales.
Canceled Models and New Products
In recent years, Toyota has updated Scion’s model line and added the iQ, a mini car. But the iQ hasn’t sold, especially well as customers are drawn to the roomier and more efficient Chevrolet Spark. The iQ will not return for 2016 nor will the xB.
A number of critics, including this writer, had previously marked Scion for dead as recently as this year. As chance would have it, he was also at the 2015 New York International Auto Show to witness the debut of two new Scion models. Both models — the Scion iA and the Scion iM — will be on sale this fall.
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The Scion iA is a compact sedan and is priced at $15,700 for the 6-speed manual transmission. Add $900 to obtain a 6-speed automatic. The iA is the result of Toyota’s partnership with Mazda. Indeed, it is based on the Mazda2, a model that is no longer sold in the United States. Toyota estimates that the iA will achieve 33 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway.
The Scion iM is a hatchback model and priced from $18,460 for the manual transmission and $19,200 for a continuously variable transmission. It is based on the Toyota Auris, a compact hatchback derived from the Toyota Corolla. Given that the Corolla is sold only as a sedan, the iM could interest buyers who would prefer a hatchback. Top fuel economy is estimated at 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
Four Model Lines for Scion
With the iA and iM in the Scion line and the iQ and xB vanquished, Scion will also have the FR-S sports car and the tC sport coupe to round out its product line. Scion sales are down 18 percent through the first half of this year and is on track to sell 50,000 units for the year. However, the two new models could change the brand’s fortunes when they are placed on sale this September 1.
One model that won’t be supplemented with new body styles is the Scion FR-S. Convertible and turbo variants had been considered, but the brand’s senior vice president, Doug Murtha, said last year that both derivatives will not happen. The Scion FR-S is based on the Toyota GT86. Once that model is due for its replacement in about two years, Toyota may switch to Mazda to supply it. Indeed, that model could be based on the Mazda Miata, a roadster that is also yielding the Fiat 124 Spider. That last tidbit is based on a rumor shared by Car & Driver in June.
No SUV Slated
Regardless of Toyota’s future plans for Scion, the sales battle will certainly become a heated one. Customers are shifting to smaller crossovers too, abandoning the same vehicles that Scion is banking on. Neither Toyota nor Scion appears to have a model to fill that widening hole, at least not yet.