Toyota going to kill off Scion, rebadge cars as Toyotas

Scion_xB-2003Toyota has decided to kill off the US-only “youth-brand” Scion and rebadge its current vehicles as Toyotas by August 2016, which means the experiment to lure younger buyers by desperately trying to be hip has failed. Of course, that was something everybody could’ve seen coming from a mile away when the boxy first generation xB was replaced by something that might as well have been the replacement to the Toyota Matrix.

The Scion line-up currently consists of no cars which couldn’t just have been badged as a Toyota and sold in the regular Toyota showrooms in the first place. Except for the FR-S, which is known as the Toyota GT86 in the rest of the world, current Scions are totally forgettable: the IQ has flopped in the US, the tC isn’t halfway as sexy as a coupe should be, the iA is a rebadged Mazda2 sedan with an uglier nose and the iM is a Corolla hatchback in a market that craves crossovers.

Scion_iA-US-car-sales-statisticsAs a result, sales have dwindled from its peak at over 173.000 sales when they sold cars that stood apart from the masses to under 60.000 in the past two years. In comparison: Toyota sold almost 340.000 Corollas in the US last year and at the same level as Mini, which makes much better margins. Granted, Scion sales were expected to rebound slightly this year as the iA and iM have just been introduced at the end of last year to temporarily keep dealers happy until Toyota has figured out in which direction they want to take the brand. But considering the low demand for small cars because of low fuel prices at the moment, the chosen direction is into the automotive brand graveyard where it will join the likes of Saturn, Saab, Hummer, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Plymouth and many others.

I guess this fits nicely with Sergio Marchionne’s announcement that FCA is going to double down on SUVs, pick-up trucks and crossovers while dropping their development plans for a next generation of compact and midsized sedans for the US market, which follows Mitsubishi’s similar decision earlier. If American carbuyers continue to switch from sedans to crossovers, the pie will get smaller and the brands that take the smallest chunk out of that pie are bound to get hurt.

Scion-C_HR-crossoverScion was meant to get a version of Toyota’s C-HR crossover concept to compete with the Nissan Juke, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Buick Encore, but that isn’t expected to arrive in showrooms until the second half of the year, which would be about two or three years too late, as other brands have already laid their claims to this fast-growing segment. And again, this car may just as well be sold under the Toyota brand, which they’re probably going to do now anyways.

If only they had come up with this idea a year earlier, it would’ve saved them the confusion of first selling the iA and iM with the Scion badge for a year and then switching to a Toyota badge. It’s unknown if the two-letter model names are going to stay the same or not, but I can imagine they’ll stay for the current generations to avoid any more confusion, although renaming the FR-S as the GT86 might make sense for its worldwide appeal among enthusiasts. I guess none of the other offerings, including the tC, won’t survive the transition to Toyota.

In the 12 years Scion has been on the market, the brand has sold just over a million vehicles at 1.092.669 units, which means they’ll end their 13-year stint with about 1,15 million sales. The most popular nameplate is the xB, whose two generations have totaled 392.627 sales until the end of 2015, or 36% of the brand’s total.