February 2, 2016, 8:00 PM
The auto industry is abuzz over the demise of another brand, as Toyota has reportedly announced plans to pull the plug on the Scion brand and move its new models back under the Toyota umbrella.
The news broke after a reported employee meeting at the Scion headquarters in Torrance, California, with a 1-sentence Wikipedia update following almost immediately, saying the company would cease operations on Feb. 3. An official press release was issued on that date.
In the statement, Toyota says the Scion brand achieved its goal of making Toyota relevant to a younger demographic and that its products, all of which already have Toyota branding in markets outside North America, would migrate over to Toyota showrooms starting in August 2016 (with the changeover to the 2017 model year).
Scion was formed in 2002 to provide younger, hip vehicles to the Toyota brand that was increasingly seen by younger buyers as offering tired, overly-conservative vehicles, and was introduced into Canada in 2010. The release claims that Scion was relevant in introducing the Toyota company to over 700,000 new buyers, with roughly half of those under 35 years old (according to a Scion Canada release, the average buyer age is 39).
“It’s a leap forward for Toyota. Scion has allowed us to fast track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network,” said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America and a founding vice president of Scion. “Our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers. That’s exactly what we have accomplished.”
“This is the next step to advancing the Toyota brand in Canada and we look forward to expanding our product lineup with exciting product,” said Larry Hutchinson, President and CEO of Toyota Canada, and who was involved in establishing the brand in Canada.
Scion started off with unique products but as those aged, they were replaced with basically rebadged models of Toyota vehicles sold elsewhere in the world. The last of the unique Scion cars, the sporty tC, had its future in doubt as it neared the end of its lifecycle, and had been rebadged as the Toyota Zelas for markets in Africa, Central and South America, China and the Middle East. It will not make the move.
The face of the franchise, the xB tall wagon, started life as a slightly modified version of the Japanese market bB wagon and went out on its own with the second generation in 2007, but left the brand following its product lifecycle to be replaced by the incoming iM, itself a rebadged version of the Corolla hatchback sold in other world markets as the Toyota Auris.
The other original Scion xA, was replaced by the xD (basically the new generation of the xA) in 2007. Both were wagon versions of the Toyota Vitz and Platz, which were basically Echo and Yaris hatchbacks and sedans, respectively.
As those models were phased out, Toyota chose to replenish the well with rebadged Toyotas that had become edgier in their styling from other parts of the world. Recent additions to the lineup were the Auris-based iM, the rear-drive sporty FR-S (basically a rebadged Toyota 86, which is a collaboration with Subaru that markets its own version called BRZ) and the iA sedan, which is Mexican-made version of the Mazda2 that Canada already markets as the Yaris sedan (which is not sold in the U.S.).
The other new vehicle was the anticipated funky C-HR crossover utility that was introduced in Frankfurt with Toyota badging but then shown in Los Angeles as the Scion C-HR. Toyota Canada has confirmed that all model names will be retained and the logos switched over to the stylized T.
Toyota Canada currently has 145 Scion dealers across Canada, paired with Toyota dealerships, so the transition is expected to simply involve removing branding and maybe knocking down some walls.
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