Is the Scion iM Concept the Refreshing Addition the Brand Needs?

Source: Scion

Scion is still going strong after debuting in 2003, nearly 12 years ago at this point. The brand, introduced by Toyota to add some flavor to what was determined to be a boring and bland auto market, was mainly targeting the youth demographic with its stylish, relatively inexpensive, and small lineup of cars and compact utilities. Headed into 2015, the engineering team is still sticking to its convictions, and the company’s latest concept is proof.

Auto buffs headed to the L.A. Auto Show will be treated to Scion’s latest concept car, the iM, which the company claims “reflects the evolution of Scion as the needs and desires of its youthful customers also evolve.” The concept car, which is built for youths and all of their corresponding activities in mind, is a five-door compact hatchback, available in a custom “Incrediblue” paint job. “Whether it’s exploring the mountains or playing at the beach, Los Angeles offers adventures off every freeway. Young people just need a vehicle to get them, and all their gear, to their destination in style. The new Scion iM Concept car is designed with that in mind,” Scion’s parent company, Toyota, said in a press release.

“The tastes of today’s younger buyers have evolved. They want a car that provides excitement and individuality, as well as the comfort, technology and reliability that Scion offers,” said Scion Vice President Doug Murtha. “The iM Concept combines sleek styling with the versatility of a modern hatchback to catch the eye of Scion customers. Stay tuned for more on how we will bring this vision to the road.”

That line of reasoning plays right into the Scion mantra and mission, which has been to supply younger drivers with vehicles that are not only reliable but that are aesthetically pleasing, as well. As the Scion brand has really focused on individualization and customization of its vehicles in the past, the iM likely will appeal to a whole new subset of consumers who were itching for what Scion makes available, but in a hatchback form.

Source: Toyota

The full-body portrait, seen above, shows off exactly what Toyota and Scion execs have described. The notable blue paint job is sure to attract some eyeballs, and a sleek, low exterior profile should definitely appeal to the company’s target demographic. It does bring some competitors to mind — like the Volkswagen Golf or even some Subaru models — but the iM may offer a refreshing new take on the hatchback segment. Scion has made a name for itself for being one of the more affordable auto brands, and that reputation may play into the company’s favor when and if the iM goes into production.

Is that the reasoning behind the iM’s creation? It likely is part of it, as Scion will not only be offering consumers a new choice for drivers to their existing line up of vehicles, but continue to expand its market share and overall footprint. It may be an attempt to actually step up the brand’s game following a decade of success and growth, as well. If Scion has been able to survive in the car and compact SUV markets, perhaps the company’s brass feels its time to take on the world’s automakers on another plane?

Another likely purpose of the iM is to replace one or more of the stale and aging models in the current Scion lineup. The xB is a likely suspect, as the company has started trying to take different approaches to the vehicle to keep it alive. When the xB first hit the market, there weren’t many, if any, competitors that could match its boxy looks. Now, there are a slew of competitors that have jumped on the boxy bandwagon and taken a bite out of the xB’s market share. There is a new limited-release of the xB RS 10.0, which will be scaled to 1,500 units to try and garner some excitement, but the xB’s time may simply be up. The xD is also lined up to be mothballed, which the iM could also make a suitable replacement for.

Source: Toyota

Another thing to take into account is that the iM will be a North American -exclusive. Why is that? Well, the iM is going to be based on an already-existing model, the Toyota Auris. The Auris (seen above), a European exclusive, looks like a more simplified version of the iM, with the iM boasting some aesthetic differences to sport it up a bit. According to Toyota’s sales figures from January to June 2014, the Auris’s popularity has helped propel European sales up 8.6% year-over-year. The figures show some momentum in recent years, and that could provide some insight as to why Toyota and Scion are looking at bringing it to the States.

“The growing success of Auris, and in particular Auris Hybrid, demonstrates how TMUK’s commitment to quality is helping deliver excellent results for Toyota,” said Toyota U.K. Deputy Managing Director Tony Walker. “Cars and engines built here in Britain are proving a success right across Europe, which is great for Toyota and for British manufacturing.”

That’s the success that Toyota and Scion will try to replicate in the United States with the iM. As smaller, more economical cars are proving to be winners for multiple automakers like Honda, Hyundai, and Nissan, Toyota is probably calculating how it can get even more products on to the American market. The Auris is also available in a hybrid version, which may be a great additional vehicle for Toyota and Scion to ally with the Prius in America. In fact, for consumers who may not be interested in the Prius for whatever reason, the iM could prove to be a very valuable alternative.

With that said, does the iM have a future in the North American auto market? There’s little reason to believe that it wouldn’t, as the Scion lineup could use some refreshing, and the iM looks to be a model that will cater well to drivers’ evolving tastes. With the millennial crowd adopting hybrid and economical technology rapidly, the iM offers a sportier take on hybrids than many alternatives already on the market.

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