toyota cars

Scion 2006

See our coverage of the Scion xB (both generations) and Scion xD

Scion was first introduced in March 2002, at the New York Auto Show - the same place Chrysler made its debut. There were just two concept vehicles, the bbX (which was to become the xB), and the ccX, which was to become the tC. The three themes set out by Toyota were expressive styling, surprise-and-delight features (e.g. interior space and features), and versatility for people and their cargo.

The Scion brand fared far better than most newcomers and, indeed, better than some stalwards (Isuzu comes to mind). 140,000 Scions were sold though the beginning of 2005, despite a slow rollout that started in a single state. 2005 sales are estimated at 120,000 units - 20% xA, 40% xB, and 40% tC.

The xA has similar sales to the Volkswagen Golf (which has a large number of engine choices, unlike the xA) and the Mini (which, again, has three engines and loads of publicity), but the hot seller is the tC, which sells largely to younger buyers; the median age is 26. Overall, Scion's median buyer age is 34, the lowest median age in the industry; more than half the buyers are male, in an arena where 60% of sales are made to women.

All three Scions introduced in 2002-2005 are scheduled to be phased out in 2007 and replaced by new models to keep the lineup fresh.

Read our reviews of the Scion xA, Scion xB and Scion tC

The largest success of Scion may be its appeal to those outside of Toyota - more than 85% of buyers have not owned a toyota.

Part of the success of Scion is its wide sales network, with 856 dealers (out of 1,200 Toyota dealers).  Amazingly, 95% say that they would recommend their dealer, and 93% say they got exactly what they wanted at the dealership - perhaps because there are no incentives, discounts, value packages, or factory options. There are accessories, and profitable items like body kits, subwoofers, and interior lighting have sold briskly - at two or three times the rate of the average Toyota.

Scion is managed rather differently, and was the first automaker to use live online chat; over half of customer contacts are through email (some automakers make email difficult or impossible).

Like many youth-oriented or specialty brands, including (and notably) Saturn, Scion has owner events throughout the country - which have attracted over a thousand people each.  Taking a page from Chrysler's PT Cruiser, Scion is using specialty editions, which are largely cosmetic packages at a fairly steep additional price, with a guarantee of limited production and no repeats of the same configuration; these are called Release Series.

The new-for-2005 Scion t2B concept car was developed by Toyota's Calty Design Studio in California, and was built by Five Axis in Huntington Beach. Unlike other Scions, it runs on a new platform; it has a 2.4 liter engine. The exterior design is wider at the top than the bottom, and has a wedge roof. Bezel-framed, deep set headlights round out the front corners and enhance the feeling of substance and  width. Unlike most cars, it is asymmetrical with one high intensity LED fog lamp. Wide vertical intake scoops cool 14 inch brakes,and large fender flares and 20 inch alloy wheels give a larger presence.

These comments are from Scion's Jim Farley:

The lack of door handles and b-pillars, a high beltline and the contoured edges  convey sophistication and allow the eye an uninterrupted view of the vehicle. The passenger side features another surprise... a large, single remote-controlled power sliding door that allows easy access to both front and rear seats. Asymmetry is again apparent when you move to the driver-side, which incorporates suicide doors that swing open a full 180-degrees to reveal a surprisingly roomy interior, and a built-in speaker system.

The interior, designed by Calty interior project leader William Chergosky, and senior designer Naoki Hamajima, exudes a lounge-like atmosphere.

Interior components come together to create an intimate environment for the occupants. The rear seats are slightly higher than the front, giving a stadium-like feel. Each of the four seats is contoured to the human body, and when the doors are closed, sloping, padded lining integrates with the seat. ...be sure to take a look at the tri-level instrument panel, the details in the seats and the electronic ticker tape that runs the perimeter of the interior.

Since both entertainment and personalization are essential to this generation, the ticker tape is meant to provide the user access to movies, games and music via downloads from the Internet, similar to what we see with cell phones today. The upper layer of the instrument panel features an mp3 docking station that echoes the dual moonroof design. The wide rear glass serves as a projection screen for movies, games or screen savers, thanks to a projector housed in the headliner. Combined with the speakers in the doors, this effectively turns the car into an entertainment center when parked.

Along with this show car, Calty also designed two... one-quarter scale models to illustrate Scion's commitment to versatility: A t2B fastback and a t2B cargo.

Although all Scion t2Bs are only styling exercises, they provide us with an opportunity to evaluate new thinking.

DIMENSIONS (inches): Overall Length: 164.6; Overall Width: 70.5; Overall Height: 67.0; Wheelbase: 106.3