Sitting in the showroom of our first Morgan Auto dealership I remember my first impressions of the Scion brand in 2004: Funky, simple to configure, no haggle (pure price) and hell bent on offering a quicker more streamlined process of car buying to the consumer (something dealerships still struggle with 11 years later). The target was younger buyers and I thought Toyota's approach was positive and proactive. Not every Scion model appealed to the target Generation X/Y consumer (xB for example) but overall the Scion brand did its job of bringing first time customers into the Toyota umbrella (70% of Scion buyers were Toyota first timers). Over the next five years I watched as Honda customers got older and Toyota's younger. Scion was a part of solving a challenge that some of Toyota's competition struggled with.
No one wants to know their average buyer's age is growing each year. Acquiring a consumer and creating brand loyalty inside of the 25-34 demo is a huge achievement in retail especially when you have more mature models to bring them into later in life (Camry, Prius, Highlander, Sienna). Plus who wants the stigma of being the most driven car on the Senior PGA Tour (think Buick, Lincoln)? We used to have Scion meetups at the dealership. Scion gave us the right to enjoy the car rally element that only exotic buyers and classic car owners enjoyed. It was always a positive talking point. Their concept models were outlandish and progressive. Then it all just seemed to go away.
|Flyer from a 2008 Scion Event at Toyota of Tampa Bay "Wicked Whips 2.0"|
Around 2009 sales began to decrease and the excitement for the brand dropped to a whisper. New Scion models didn't ignite the passion they first had and Toyota annual meetings were spent with mentions of rebooting and revitalizing the brand. Scion tC (Scion's volume model) sales fell in half. The crossover SUV segment was growing and Scion didn't have a dog in that fight. Even the fabled Toyota 86, which became the rear wheel drive Scion FR-S (great car/right price) couldn't bring back the brand. Scion had fallen into a niche and lost all aspirations of regaining growth and of becoming a "2nd dealership" for Toyota dealers.
All Scion models will fold into the Toyota brand in 2017 save for the Scion tC which had previously been slated to be discontinued in 2016. So the Scion iA, iM and the FR-S will soon have Toyota badging. Even the Scion CH-R crossover concept will honor it's reported release but as a Toyota model instead. A Scion owners service relationship with their Toyota dealership should remain virtually unchanged. This is good news ultimately for everyone. While I do believe Scion helped bring younger buyers to Toyota over time Toyota was began to do this on their own. It's a challenge to manage two separate brand philosophies under one roof and many elements of the Scion experience are coming to Toyota anyway.
Scion dealerships need to share in the blame too
The Scion model of "Pure Price" and delivery within an hour was seldom adhered to by dealers. Competing dealers would use trade allowances, waived dealer fees and free accessories to compromise the element of "Pure Price" and buy consumer favor. Scion as a brand never got a fair look as to the success of this model simply because DEALERSHIPS failed to discipline themselves to it.
Scion: Victim of Its Own Success?
He then added, "But in the future, we will have to integrate Toyota and Scion."