The short life of Scion (and its cars)

Scion was first introduced in March 2002, at the New York Auto Show, with two concept vehicles — the bbX (which was to become the xB), and the ccX (the future tC). Toyota said they wanted expressive styling, surprise-and-delight features (e.g. interior space and features), and versatility for people and their cargo. The cars were all based on the Yaris (Echo).

Scion xA • Scion xBScion xDScion tC

Scion fared far better than most newcomers and, indeed, better than some stalwards (Isuzu comes to mind); total sales reached 140,000 from launch to the beginning of 2005, despite a slow rollout that started in a single state. The xA managed to come close to the Volkswagen Golf and Mini; the hot seller was originally the tC, selling mostly to younger buyers, with a median age of 26. Scion’s overall median buyer age was 34, the lowest in the industry, which was the goal of the new brand.

Test drives: Scion xA, Scion xB and Scion tC

The main reason for launching Scion was to reach younger buyers at a time when Toyota buyers’ average ages were growing higher. In its first years, over 85% of buyers have never owned a Toyota.

The sales network in early 2005 was 856 U.S. dealers, versus 1,200 Toyota dealers.  95% of buyers say that they would recommend their dealer, and 93% say they got exactly what they wanted at the dealership - perhaps because there were no incentives, discounts, value packages, or factory options. Profitable items like body kits, subwoofers, and interior lighting have sold briskly - at two or three times the rate of the average Toyota.

Scion was the first automaker to use live online chat; over half of customer contacts were through email (most automakers made email difficult or impossible at the time, and indeed, some still do).

The company sponsored owner events throughout the country, which attracted over a thousand people each. Specialty editions, largely cosmetic packages with a guarantee of limited production and no repeats of the same configuration, were dubbed Release Series.

The brand’s sales flagged after a few years, as the novelty wore off, and younger buyers started to move elsewhere. Toyota wrapped up the brand in 2018, assigning the final Scion, the iM, to Toyota as the Corolla iM.

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