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Toyota Abandoning Scion Brand

Once-strong youth division lost focus, sales.

by on Feb.03, 2016

The 2016 Scion iA was the youth-oriented brand's first-ever sedan and one of two products parent Toyota hoped would save the brand.

It was intended to attract the sort of hip young buyers who were largely steering clear of Toyota stores, and, for at least a few years, it worked. But with sales steadily dropping despite an infusion of new product, Toyota is pulling the plug on its Scion brand.

Products like the new Scion iM and iA won’t be abandoned, however. The plan is to rebadge them as Toyota products for the 2017 model-year, though it’s unclear what will happen to the edgy C-HR crossover vehicle that Scion was developing, as it could come to close to existing Toyota products.


“This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota,” said Jim Lentz, the CEO of Toyota North America, is a statement. “Scion has allowed us to fast track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network.”


Scion Aims to Regain Youthful Allure

Flood of new products promised.

by on Jan.23, 2015

The Scion tC Release Series 9.

Scion is turning to an old idea in its bid for young drivers, giving its tC Coupe a two-tone paint job based on a popular custom car show concept.

Originally aimed at youthful “influencers” who would draw buyers into showrooms for parent Toyota’s products, Scion has lost a lot of its early momentum in recent years, recent models like the micro-sized iQ and second-generation xB falling flat in the marketplace. Despite speculation Toyota might give up on the Scion brand-within-a-brand, the Japanese maker has no intention of pulling the plug and is, instead, promising to roll out an assortment of edgy new models that it hopes will recapture Scion’s original energy.

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“We’re committed to Scion,” declared Bob Carter, head of Toyota’s U.S. auto operations, during a speech at an industry confab in San Francisco this week. The sub-brand remains “a test bed for Millennials,” and a significant part of Toyota’s broader strategy.

It sees Scion as a critical bridge to help it gain new buyers for the Toyota brand which has long been dependent on now-aging Baby Boomers.


Shake-Up at Scion

Toyota’s youth brand making major changes to product line-up.

by on Jul.29, 2014

Soon to be gone? The Scion xB.

Scion has always tried to think out of the box, and now it likely will abandon its boxy xB model as part of a product line shake-up designed to reinvigorate Toyota Motor Co.’s youth-oriented brand.

The xB is one of several models that reportedly will go away, according to various reports, while the Japanese brand will get several new models, including a version of the Auris hatchback sold in Europe and other parts of the world under the Toyota badge.

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Gone is the strategy of limiting Scion to just a handful of products designed to bring first-time buyers into showrooms, the brand’s top executive recently confirmed to

Scion could use the shake-up. Only a few years back considered among the hottest brands in the market, Scion has lost significant momentum in recent years and was one of only a handful of brands to see sales slide during the first half of 2014.


Scion in Transition

To stay true to its past Scion needs to rethink its future. Is China part of that?

by on May.09, 2012

Scion boss Jack Hollis reveals the original FRS-86 Concept -- now the new Scion FR-S.

Think of it as the Peter Pan brand, forever young.  And that’s just the way Scion intends to stay despite recent rumors suggesting Toyota’s youth-oriented brand will shift its focus.

But don’t think there aren’t some big changes in the works, suggested Jack Hollis, the general manager of the Scion division.  Quite the contrary.  For one thing, the brand will be expanding its line-up.  And some familiar nameplates will soon be going away – with some radically new alternatives taking the place of familiar offerings like the boxy xB.

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Meanwhile, Scion’s success hasn’t been ignored by other regions of the far-flung Toyota empire.  And so, while conceived specifically as a U.S. brand Scion very well could expand into other markets from China to the Middle East, officials told in an exclusive interview.

“Scion will need to change and evolve because the younger generation is changing quickly,” said Hollis, stressing that the Millennial market is feeling the impact of not only the recession but economic changes likely to reach years into the future.


Scion Says Bye-Bye Box

Maker to drop both xB and xD models.

by on Apr.24, 2012

Not everything that glitters is gold, Scion discovered when it redesigned the boxy xB in 2008.

When is a minivan not a minivan?  When it is a cool box-on-wheels like the Scion xB.  Or, at least, it was when the maker introduced the original, squared off hatchback nearly a decade ago – spawning a whole host of imitations.  But a second-generation update left buyers cold, sending sales plunging – and now, it appears, Scion is about to say “bye-bye” to the box.

The maker also is planning to kill off the only slightly less boxy xD model which joined the Scion line-up late in 2007 to deafening disinterest, or so goes a new report in trade publication Ward’s.

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The two models will almost certainly won’t be replaced.  But that’s no surprise.  Scion officials have long stressed that products will come and go from the line-up as the Toyota sub-brand experiments with potential new concepts.

The Japanese maker initially billed Scion as its “youth division,” and while it hasn’t been doing all that well on the sales charts lately it has been able to attract younger, hipper buyers than traditional Toyota offerings like the Corolla and Camry.


First Look: Hyundai Curb Concept

Small crossover could make sense as a production vehicle if fuel prices continue to rise.

by on Jan.10, 2011

The Hyundai Curb Concept isn't production ready, but with a few detail changes, it could see production in the future.

Hyundai must be serious about improving the fuel economy of its fleet. How else to describe the wave of small cars that are on the horizon for the Korean automaker? There’s the Veloster hatchback, which was introduced at the 2011 Detroit auto show, and Hyundai has confirmed a five-door Accent for the U.S. market. And now, there’s the Curb Concept, which, like the Veloster, was unveiled in Detroit.

The Curb isn’t a production-ready car — it sports future tech that isn’t quite ready for prime time. But it’s not a pie-in-the-sky concept, either. It’s not hard to envision this small crossover making it into production with toned-down styling and more-conventional technology.

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Speaking of styling, the Curb is an exercise in the company’s “fluidic sculpture” theme, and the end result is a slightly boxy theme with plenty of softened and rounded edges. It’s probably a little too out there for mainstream tastes, but with some adjustments, it would be a good vehicle for fighting the Kia Soul, Nissan Cube, and Scion xB.

One of the more interesting design features is the windshield — the glass wraps around the A-pillar. This design element is a nod to motorcycle helmets, but it also should improve forward visibility.


Q&A: Jim Lentz, Toyota’s Top “Gaijin”

A "family" of Prius products; and "passionate" minivans?

by on Aug.05, 2009

Can a "family" of Prius hybrids and "more passionate" design and performance reverse Toyota's recent problems?  Top American executive Jim Lentz is betting on it.

Can a "family" of Prius hybrids, plus "more passionate" designs, reverse Toyota's recent problems? Jim Lentz is betting on it.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.  Going into the New Year, it was starting to look like nothing could go wrong for Toyota, not after it nudged aside General Motors to become the world’s best-selling automaker.  But things turned south in a hurry as a result of the calamitous collapse in the American auto market.

With its U.S. subsidiary posting hefty, double-digit declines, the Japanese parent suddenly plunged deep in the red.  That’s prompted big management changes, right up to the chairman’s office, where Akio Toyoda, heir to the company’s founding family, has become the new Toyota Motor Company CEO.  If anything, however, President Toyoda is planning to put more power into the hands of the company’s American management team, including Chief Operating Officer Jim Lentz.

Informative, insightful.

Informative, insightful.

The boyish-looking Lentz has worked his way up through the organization, and left his touch on Toyota Motor Sales, USA, in many ways.  Yet, he plans even bigger moves going forward, as he explains in this Q&A.


First Drive: 2009 Nissan Cube

Square as hip.

by on Jul.08, 2009

After a long wait while the Japanese automaker redesigned the boxy crossover for the American market, the 2009 Nissan Cube is finally rolling into local showrooms.

After a long wait while the Japanese automaker redesigned the boxy crossover for the American market, the 2009 Nissan Cube is finally rolling into local showrooms.

“For something with such rounded edges, how can they call it a Cube?” asked a good friend, recently.  It’s one of those little questions I found myself pondering as I got the chance to drive Nissan’s new offering – and the latest entry into the expanding category of what might be called “box-mobiles.”

The 2009 Nissan Cube joins the list with the second-generation Scion xB and the current viral hit, Kia’s new Soul.  The three of them start out as little more than boxes on wheels – when did square become hip? – about the most functional, flexible shape you can come up with.  Then the makers round a corner here, exaggerate a beltline there, add a few hip, and sometimes goofy features, like Soul’s pulsing disco lights, and for the final touch, deliver the whole package at a surprisingly affordable price.

Crash Resistant!

Not for Squares!

The 2009 Nissan Cube falls into the middle when it comes to cost, $14,710 for a base car, compared with $13,995 for the Soul and $16,420 for the xB.  Our test car nudged the sticker price up another $8,000, money paid for such niceties as an upgraded audio system, lighted sill plates and one of the strangest accessories we’ve ever seen, a round piece of shag carpeting that looked a lot like a chia pet – or worse, some fungus – growing out of the top of the instrument panel.


Revisionist History: Was the Pontiac Aztek Merely Ahead of its Times?

Progenitor of the Cube, Soul, xB and other funky hip designs - or just plain ugly?

by on Jul.07, 2009

Was it the ugliest vehicle ever made or a trendsetter ahead of its time?  The 2001 Pontiac Aztek is shown here with a pop-up tent, part of an astounding line of accessories that made it the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife on wheels.

Maybe if you put a bag over its...tail? Was the Pontiac Aztek the ugliest vehicle ever made or a trendsetter ahead of its time?

I’m used to having people stare at me when I drive by.  Well, not me, exactly, but the various cars I rotate through, on a regular basis.  Call it the head-turn factor, if you will, for it’s one indication of how well a product stands out in today’s competitive and overcrowded automotive market.

Some vehicles grab your attention because they’re just plain beautiful, the Mercedes-Benz CLS, for example; others because they’re rare and exotic – a Bentley or a Lamborghini.  Then there are the odd ducks that simply stand out, and these days there are a whole bunch of them coming to market.

There’s the Kia Soul, made famous by those hip little hamsters in a commercial that’s gone mega-hot on You Tube.  Nissan’s weighed in with its own offering, the decidedly funky Cube.  And, of course, we can’t ignore the xB, now in its second generation.  The boxy crossover was the product that put Scion, Toyota’s youth-oriented brand-within-a-brand, on the map.

What do they all have in common?  They’re basically all boxes on wheels, and more than a bit retro, with a hint of the classic, full-sized van in their DNA.  That said, their designs are all a bit out of the norm, they’re definitely not minivans, nor are they SUVs.  Each has a decidedly distinctive take on an otherwise fundamentally simple shape.  The asymmetric Cube tries hard to be cute, Scion is L.A. street smart and Soul boasts hip-hop sensibilities, with its flashing interior lights.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comBut above all, they’re designed to deliver maximum functionality – which is, after all, the thing that boxes, or vans, if you prefer, do best.  So, it should be no surprise that the combination of form and function is connecting so well with today’s buyers, especially young ones also attracted to the reasonably low price tag of these three models.

Then again, maybe it should be a surprise.

It wasn’t all that long ago that American buyers turned a big thumbs down on another quirkily-styled box-mobile that attempted to combine incredible functionality and flexibility — arguably a good bit more than the newer Soul, Cube and xB – and a bold styling statement.

I’m referring, of course, to the late and largely unlamented Pontiac Aztek.