The Scion brand is floundering, but that doesn’t mean that Toyota is willing to wave the white flag just yet. The company has had a rough run over the past few years, but news is trickling in that Scion is planning on adding even more to its lineup in an attempt to regain lost ground. The most intriguing part of Scion’s plan? It looks like it’s going to be tackling a segment it has yet to go after: Sedans.
Not only a sedan, but it also appears that the Scion iM concept car may actually see production and join the lineup as well. “With the iM hatchback and our first sedan, we’re inviting drivers to re-imagine what they can accomplish with a Scion,” Scion Group Vice President Doug Murtha said in a statement. “Both new models will stand out in the marketplace for their style and substance. I can confidently predict that 2015 will be an exciting year for Scion.”
But wait, there’s more: There will also be a third vehicle added to the Scion line within the next three years, in what may amount to be a final attempt at staying afloat. There’s no word on what that might be yet, but it could possibly be a new take on another Toyota model, like the iM, which is based on the international Auris model.
Scion, which is now more than a dozen years old, has had meager levels of success in the United States of late, as it was conceived to be a brand that catered toward a younger demographic, primarily 18- to 35-year-olds. The vehicles that currently populate the lineup feature sporty looks and youth-oriented features, but Toyota has still not been able to break into the mainstream with them.
That mainstream is likely what Toyota brass had in mind when they thought up a new Scion sedan.
Of course, adding a sedan isn’t much of a surprise as Scion’s U.S. sales have slipped. American consumers — if you take a quick peek at the country’s best-sellers — seem to love two things more than anything: Pickup trucks, and midsize/compact sedans. Those are two segments in which Scion is lacking a presence, and a sedan gets the brand right back into the game.
We won’t get an actual look at the new sedan, and the slated-for-production Scion iM, until April at the New York International Auto Show. Though the company may be excited at the prospect of getting new vehicles on the market, others seem, well, less interested. Jalopnik, for example, describes the move of adding a sedan — “the most common body style of car in automotive history” — as “phoning it in”.
They may have a point, too. After all, Scion was established to bring new, exciting, and fresh ideas and concepts to the showrooms. But it appears the company’s leadership is set with abandoning those original ideals in order to maintain its slight grip on the market. On one hand, you can’t really blame them for trying to keep the brand viable, but on the other, the company was established for a specific purpose. And when they are no longer fulfilling that purpose, then what good are they?
Given the current state of the market, adding a sedan in order to bolster sales may not be such a bad idea.
According to Automotive News, Scion only sold slightly more than 58,000 vehicles last year, which is a 15% decline from the year before. That comes in stark contrast to the overall market’s 6% expansion, and made Scion one of the year’s biggest automotive losers, right behind Mini. The brand’s best year was way back in 2006, when dealers sold more than 173,000 Scion models.
That 173,000 total units sold in 2006 was Scion’s greatest year to date. For comparison, Ford sold nearly 75,000 F-Series pickup trucks in December of 2014 alone.
To calm doomsayers, Scion’s management has stuck to the story that they just need to be patient, and that newer models would be phased in to replace the older lineup. The addition of the sedan, the iM, and the third mystery model are likely the beginning of that process, but it’s clear just how much ground Scion has to make up to get back ahead.
Luckily for Scion, its parent company, Toyota, is doing just fine. That means they’ll have more leeway in giving Scion a chance to work out its troubles. Last month, Toyota sales were up 12.2% over December of 2013, and for 2014 as a whole, Toyota sales were up 5.1%. “The industry finished last year on a high note thanks to a strong economic tailwind,” said Bill Fay, Toyota Division Group Vice President and General Manager. “That momentum should continue in 2015 and combined with continued strong replacement demand, boost sales further.”
With two of Toyota’s sedans — the Camry and the Corolla — as mainstays on the U.S. best-sellers list, it only furthers Scion’s case for introducing a sedan onto the market. If Scion can model its sedan after either one of those cars, and possibly put some sportier aesthetics on it, and offer it at a lower price, they may end up with a winner on their hands.
But the question remains as to whether or not the “out with the old, in with the new” mentality will be enough to save the Scion brand from complete irrelevance. Adding a sedan should help spur on sales, and the iM will attract its own subset of consumers as well. The third model, depending on what it is, should help, too. But will it be enough? Or will Scion continue to “phone it in?”