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Scion Celebrates Its 5th


scion-hako.jpg

scion-hako.jpg

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When the e-mail landed in my mailbox, it prompted me to think that at five, Toyota's youth-oriented "brand within a brand" isn't all that much older than its average buyer. OK, cheap shot, but there's little doubt that Scion has come as close as any nameplate too capturing the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of America's most youthful buyers.

"It has the youngest median age in the automotive industry, 31," crows the division's general manager, Jac Hollis, "and 72 percent owners are new to the Toyota family," he adds. These are both Holy Grail targets for the industry, and for the Japanese maker in particular. It's easy to forget that Toyota built its reputation and business on the Baby Boom generation. But in the years before Scion's launch, it had fallen increasingly out of touch with the buyers who would follow, Gen X and millennials, who largely steered clear of Toyota showrooms in favor of hipper brands, like Mitsubishi or Volkswagen.

Of course, we've seen what's happened to both of them. Mitsu tried using give-away deals - including one that required nothing down and no payments for a full year. It certainly did a good job of bringing young buyers into its showrooms, but when it came time to actually start paying off their car loans, far too many of those young drivers found themselves in over their heads. So they turned back the keys and walked away, living Mitsubishi deeply in debt and nearly driving it out of business. VW, meanwhile, has seen its own brand image tarnished by a variety of problems, including nagging quality concerns.

Scion opened its doors on June 9, 2003, initially selling a pair of products through 105 California dealerships. As it broadened the lineup to three models, the Toyota division also started rolling out to other markets across the country. Edgy designs, with models like the original xB, quickly connected with so-called opinion leaders, Scion backing things up with some of the most novel and carefully targeted marketing campaigns ever seen by the normally staid auto industry. Today, 982 of Toyota's 1,231 U.S. dealers handle the Scion brand, and have sold 620,000 vehicles since the marque's debut.

That's not to say all is going perfectly. The new xB has taken some sharp criticism from straying from the small and laser-angled dimensions of the original. And there are those who worry that Scion's rigid decision to hold to just three models at a time is counterproductive. But as Hollis told me, several months ago, Toyota planners are now giving serious consideration to several other new products, and we could soon see a Scion showroom with five, perhaps even six different products on display - possibly including a version of the Hako concept, above, first seen at this year's New York Auto Show.

"Scion will continue to push the envelope in all key areas of its business," promises Hollis. With more and more makers now targeting the same youthful buyers, and offering increasingly hip and trendy - and high-mileage - products to win them over, Scion will be facing more of a challenge than it did initially. But the brand is clearly able to celebrate this birthday as one of the troubled U.S. market's few real success stories.
 
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Comments (3)
  1. I was 41 when I bought my new 2005 xB, which is the best car I've ever owned. So much for Scion's original demographic. I traded an unreliable 2002 VW Passat to get the xB, and it will be a long time before I ever own another VW.
    My 'old' xB gets 30 MPG in town, way better than the 22 MPG offered by the new xB. Mr. Hollis may say Scion will offer 'high-mileage' cars, but the new xB isn't one of them.
     
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  2. Scion is an example of a company not being able to sell to a certain age group and creating a new brand to attact young new buyers. Like Saturn, Lexus, Acura and before them Plymouth, Desoto and Imperial, creating a new brand is a way for a car manufacturer to fix something it feels in can't fix internally. While Saturn and Lexus have become successes (Saturn only recently thanks to gas prices), they represent a loss to the car manufacturer that prefers to back down than to compete. GM does not need 10 brands to compete, it chooses not to do so. That's why the closest thing to something cool in a Toyota dealership is a gas guzzling FJ Cruiser. Toyota's Scion brand was successfull at first with neat new models but the shine is lost and it's only a matter of time before Toyota has to broaden the brand, most likely with cars it sells only in Japan. That's not success, it's an expensive band aid.
     
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  3. if you think your getting 30mpg in that 1.5L then you must be driving 50mph on the freeway. the new xB with it's 2.4l motor is getting 27-31mpg without wheezing to pass cars or go uphill at 70-75mph. 22-28mpg is the new epa rating for mileage and if they used the old rating it would show 25-33mpg.
    a majority of Scion buyers are parents buying the cars for their kids and that does not show in any registration report. as long as they keep the price point below $20k they will always get the parents wanting a reliable, safe car for their kids.
     
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