Scion Plans No Crossover Anytime Soon
The Scion brand has slipped away from the cutting edge in recent years, and Toyota’s planning a significant product push in the next 12 months to rejuvenate the lineup with fresh ideas and fresh sheet metal. Despite rumors, however, don’t look for a crossover from the youthful brand. Scion’s willing to think outside the box, but it isn’t ready to go there.
As Scion’s sales have slowed and the product line has aged, there’s been some question as to whether the brand has lost its way. Introduced in 2002 as a hipper, younger alternative to the average Toyota, Scion quickly became a major contributor to the revolution in the subcompact market. Small, efficient cars didn’t have to be cheap-looking or boring, Scion opined, and the rest of the industry followed suit. These days the average entry-level car isn’t a ride that you buy just because you can’t afford anything else, but can be an entertaining and classy extension of your personality.
Scion helped to create this climate, but then the revolution seemed to pass it by. Ford, Honda, Mini, Fiat and even Kia and Hyundai became the go-to cars for the automotive hipsters that Scion was hoping to attract. Toyota’s keen to reverse this slide, and to that end unveiled the first of several all-new models at the New York Auto Show.
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Why it matters
Scion is on the verge of being pushed out of the very market segment it helped to create. The brand needs to prove that it’s still in touch with the customers it went to great pains to cultivate. There’s been quite a bit of speculation as to the form Scion’s renaissance will take, with the idea of a crossover vehicle based on the Toyota RAV4 or one of Toyota’s Asia-only offerings being tossed about. In an interview with Autoguide, Scion group vice president Doug Murtha put those rumors to rest.
“I think [crossovers] work better with a Toyota badge on their hood than a Scion badge,” Murtha said. “Like it or not, SUVs still come with a little bit of that family-esque stigma … and I don’t think that’s what the majority of our customers are looking to project about themselves.”
Confirmation that Scion won’t be following Mini and Fiat into the crossover market (at least not in the near term) came in New York, where the new Scion iM and iA made their debuts. The iA is Scion’s first four-door sedan, while the iM is a sporty hatch-wagon offering cargo capability wedded to sport underpinnings. At a glance it might seem like a crossover, but all-wheel drive is not an option.
Price-wise, Scion’s newcomers are sticking close to the brand’s current offerings, which it’s expected they’ll eventually supplant. High content is also a Scion hallmark, and the sub-$17,000 iA features a standard low-speed pre-collision safety system, a rear backup camera and a fancy sound system with voice recognition. A four-door sedan is new territory for Scion, but hardly groundbreaking.
Can Toyota’s upstart brand break out of the rut it’s in without entering entirely new markets? The iM is a start in a new direction, but it is still a rebadged Toyota. If it’s going to avoid being seen as a badge-engineered brand, Scion may have to dig somewhat deeper.
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