Toyota to merge lines as Scion nameplate axed

Toyota today announced that it will discontinue the Scion nameplate, merging current models with its brand.

Scion, Toyota’s attempt to encourage a new generation of buyers, will soon drift into automotive history as the number one carmaker pulls the plug on the struggling operation. Just months after the launch of two models that were critical to reviving the brand, Scion will discontinue its sales operations in August. The lineup will be merged with the Toyota brand, starting with the 2017 model year intros this summer.

When Scion entered the market, its prospects were unknown. Admittedly an experiment, Toyota was seeking a new set of buyers with new tastes. From its beginnings, said Automotive News today, Scion was trying to appeal to a set of younger consumers whose tastes that its parent wasn’t reaching.

Scion reached its customer base almost immediately. At launch, younger consumers connected with the quirky utilitarian cars. The brand was quite a success, though first-year sales weren’t particularly spectacular at 10,898. In 2004, sales jumped almost 900 percent to 99,259. Sales surged again in 2005 to 156,485, reaching their zenith in 2006 at 173,034. From there until now, sales have been on the decline, briefly rising again in 2012, yet almost immediately falling again to wind up in 2015 at 56,107.

It is quite apparent that Scion hit its target audience within four years of its launch. The numbers paint a simple explanation: sales rose and then fell. There’s more to it than that. Over time, as tastes changed, other things happened that impacted Scion sales. There was the economic meltdown of the 2008-11 period when car sales tanked and product development money dried up, and then there was Toyota’s automotive crisis, unintended acceleration, which also had a cost. That cost was further investment in the line which ultimately led to fewer offerings.

More important, though, were the tastes of buyers. Toyota plainly believes that young consumers are different today. They are more likely to agree with their parents’ tastes than their older brothers and sisters. And, they are far more liable to see the same value in the marque (Toyota), as well. “Youth buyers are in a completely different position than they were 13 years ago,” Bob Carter, senior vice present of operations for Toyota Motors Sales, told Automotive News. “That’s really what’s driving this decision.”

Some may try to see the end of Scion as a failure on Toyota’s part. That is not the case. Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said, “I think when you have to unwind a brand and tell dealers it’s over, I don’t know how on some level you can’t say that’s a failure. But, I think it’d be more accurate to it a learning experience or an experiment that they learned from but in the end, it proved unsuccessful.”

Hoping for a quick end and transition, Toyota announced that Scion marque will be discontinued in August. Its models will be folded into the Toyota line. The current Scion iA, iM and FR-S will be rebadged as Toyotas when they hit dealer showrooms in August. The tC was already in line to be axed in 2016. The CH-R concept, which debuted at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, will be sold as a Toyota. It was already set to be a Toyota in the automaker’s other markets. The production version of the subcompact crossover will debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

Meantime, all Scion warranty, finance and service will be handled by Toyota. In reality, every Scion dealerships – 1,004 – are parts of existing Toyota dealerships. They will continue to sell vehicles as they have done in the past. Toyota, which had not yet contacted dealers on its announcement, planned to complete the notifications today. “There’s absolutely no change to the consumer. Everything remains the same,” Carter emphasized. “We’re simply changing the brand and the logos.”

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