Toyota‘s top North American leader was succinct in explaining the reasons for killing Scion. “It’s the right decision at the right time,” Jim Lentz said.
It’s hard to disagree.
In a strong market that saw 17.5 million sales last year, Scion volume dipped three percent. Its product lineup has withered for years, which is always a telltale sign a brand doesn’t have the full support of its owner. Though enthusiasts love the FR-S sports car, it’s the fruit of a joint project with Subaru that also produced the BRZ. Scion’s coolest car has a twin sold by one of its rivals.
After the FR-S launched in 2012, Scion got nothing – squat – in the way of new products until the iA and iM arrived late last year, IHS senior analyst Stephanie Brinley noted. “[Scion] was not successful in building a visual brand identity or product personality,” she said.
Lentz, Scion’s first vice president and now CEO of Toyota’s North American division, admitted the market has changed. “Younger customers have a different mindset,” he said. In the early oughts, a brand that catered to a youthful demographic made some sense, and this is one front where Toyota can declare victory. Seventy percent of Scion’s buyers were new to Toyota, and the average age was 36 years old.
The problem is, not enough of them buy Scions anymore. Scion hit a highwater sales mark of 173,034 vehicles in 2006 and hasn’t come close to reaching that since. The recession hurt Scion, too. It bottomed out in 2010 with just 45,678 sales, a time when the rest of the industry was beginning to recover. There was a brief uptick (73,507) in 2012, but Scion failed to capitalize on that momentum and sales fell for three more years.
Toyota is calling Scion’s pending death a “transition” back to the main company. Sure, most of the cars will be rebadged Toyotas, like the FR-S, iA, and iM. The C-HR, an attractive future crossover that would have given Scion a boost, will go into production as a Toyota. But make no mistake: This is a failure. Toyota is closing a brand in the same way General Motors scrapped Oldsmobile, Ford shuttered Mercury, and Chrysler dropped Plymouth.
Those brands languished for years. Toyota moved quicker to put the fork in Scion, which prevented it from becoming a long-term drain on the parent company. Lentz was dead on. It’s the right time.
News & Analysis
News: Sergio Marchionne is against a Ferrari SUV
Analysis: His exact words were, “you have to shoot me first,” Bloomberg reported. So yeah, he’s not a fan of a Prancing Horse SUV. As long as he’s in charge of Ferrari, consider the notion a non-starter. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles already has plenty of truck-and-SUV brands that have made bullet-proof products for decades. Ferrari doesn’t need to join that fray. But don’t consider the notion completely off the table. Arguably, Ferrari already has a crossover – the FF. It’s a hatchback with all-wheel drive, after all. Theoretically Ferrari could toe the line with some kind of tweener vehicle.
Look at the competitive field: Maserati and Lamborghini are adding real-deal crossovers complete with elevated ride height and sterner looks, to say nothing of the upcoming utes from Bentley and Rolls-Royce. Long ago, Porsche got over itself and now offers two crossovers and a sedan.
Yes, Ferrari is different even than those storied brands. It’s the winningest Formula One team ever and one of the national symbols of Italy. A real SUV will never happen. Someday, not on Marchionne’s watch, maybe something else will.
Matt LeBlanc Top Gear
News: Matt LeBlanc joins Top Gear
Analysis: It’s a surprise, that’s for sure. Fans of the show will need some time to adjust to Joey Tribbiani as one of the successors to Clarkson & Co. That being said, his bonafides are relatively strong. The BBC is quick to point out that LeBlanc is a lifelong gearhead and claims the fastest-ever celebrity lap at the Top Gear track. The former Friends star is likable and has more mainstream fame than any Top Gear host, past or present. Currently, he’s on another BBC show, the comedy Episodes, which could have helped him land the Top Gear role. LeBlanc is far enough removed from Friends that he won’t be a cartoon character on Top Gear, but he still has huge name recognition. It’s an interesting, attention-getting play for the BBC and one of its most important shows.
Scion C-HR Conept