Toyota Pulls Plug on Scion Brand

AutoInformed.comToyota is giving up on its failed experiment with establishing a separate youth brand – Scion in the United States. With more than a million cars sold, 70% of Scions were purchased by customers new to Toyota and 50% were under 35 years old. Still it wasn’t good enough.

Beginning in August 2016, what would have been model year 2017 Scion vehicles will be re-badged as Toyota. The FR-S sports car, iA sedan and iM 5-door hatchback will become Toyota models. The tC sports coupe will end production in August 2016.

The C-HR, which debuted at the L.A. Auto Show last November will also be a part of the Toyota line-up. It screams out for attention like a two-year old throwing a tantrum. When it appears as the production version next year, it will likely have matured into a usable crossover. C-HR Concept – named for its Compact size and High Ride height – has. four doors and a hatch. It is claimed to be the perfect vehicle for “yuccies,” the young urban creatives who allegedly inspired this all-out feet-kicking styling tantrum.

“The Scion brand never quite caught on in the way that Toyota hoped it would. By offering Scion products under the Toyota badge, the company can save marketing costs and eliminate what had effectively become a distraction from its core business focus,” says Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell.

Toyota claims that Scion has consistently been the youngest brand in the auto industry with an average age of 36 years old. At 29, the tC sports coupe has the lowest-average age buyer in the industry. The most recent additions to the line-up, the iA sedan and iM 5-door hatchback, are bringing in new buyers with 70 percent being first-time new car purchasers. Additionally, more than 50 percent of iM and iA buyers are under 35 years old.

In a long overdue response to Korean automaker marketing techniques – over-equip, then underprice – the Scion iA and iM are loaded with technology with few options. Better still, the subcompact iA and compact iM cars range in price from ~$16,500 to $20,000. In a way, these significant entries in their segments are notable for what they are not, rather than what they are. These are not stripped down base models. They come with full safety equipment, including a low-speed pre-collision system and a 7-inch multimedia system with voice recognition. Finally, these are not slack econobox performers – their ride, acceleration, handling, braking is remarkable for the price.

The all-new 2016 Scion iA Sports Sedan is the product of a joint venture with Mazda, which will build the car at its Salamanca plant in Mexico along with the Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris. Scion added a front clip to a Mazda body that is not currently sold in the U.S. This is Scion’s first sedan ever. It is a B-segment car competing – extremely well – with Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, and Hyundai Accent models.

Scion iA has – unfortunately – the Lexus and, increasingly, the misguided Toyota exaggerated front-end SNOUT that appears to be a Mad Magazine caricature of production grilles. Behind the angular, ugly front lies a discordant curvy 4-door shape. Underneath the iA has a reasonably tuned suspension, if you can tune a Macpherson strut front end with a stabilizer bar and a twist beam axle aft.

The sole engine is a 1.5-liter DOHC rated at 106 horsepower with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions and standard 16-inch alloy wheels The 1.5 is rated by the EPA an estimated 33 city/ 42 highway/ 37 combined mpg for the automatic version and 31 city/ 41 highway/ 35 combined for the manual.

Driving the iA reveals a firm ride with good body control in roll and yaw. Zero-to-60 mph is about 10 seconds. The lighted tachometer is difficult to read. There are engine noise and tire noise, and the electronic steering is Novocain numb. Overall, at the price, this is a good effort.

Scion iM – good performance – great price.

The better car is the iM 4-door hatchback, with an MSRP of $18,460 plus $795 delivery for the 6-speed manual transmission and $19,200 plus $795 delivery for the simulated 7-speed CVTi-S model. The iM is also a ‘mono-spec’ model with few options. It is ~$2000 to as much as -$6000 under competitive offerings – the Mazda3, Ford Focus SE, VW Golf S and Hyundai Elantra GT – and in some cases iM has equipment those compact cars can’t offer at any price.

Scion iM is derived from the tC sports coupe platform with a double-wishbone rear suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/45R17 tires. The handling is taut, but with compliant ride quality. The Electronic Power Steering is numb although  it provides less assistance at highway speeds. The 137 horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine uses continuously variable valve timing – both lift and phasing – for a good torque curve, making zero-to-60 mph in an acceptable 9 seconds.

The powertrain is EPA rated at an estimated 28 city/37 hwy/32 combined for the CVTi-S model and 27 city/36 hwy/31 combined for the six-speed manual. The optional automatic is a better choice with the 1.8-liter engine since the manual is a sloppy cable shifter. (Caveat here – I was driving a prototype that may or may not be representative of the production cars – so don’t rule out the manual until you drive it.)

Scion’s 22 employees from sales, marketing, distribution, strategy, and product and accessories planning, will be offered new jobs at Toyota Motor Sales in Torrance. Scion regional representatives will assume different responsibilities in their respective Toyota sales offices.

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