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.
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.
Curiously, former Scion chief – and now rival Ford’s global marketing czar – Jim Farley has revealed that the primary goal behind Scion was to create a place where Toyota to experiment with minimal risk. The idea was that it would experience less damage with a failure than the “mother” brand, as Toyota did when it took an image hit from the failure of the deeply unloved Echo, a few years back.
The xD was as close to an out-and-out failure as Scion has had. Sales peaked at just 27,665 in the 2008 calendar year but fell off by nearly 50% a year later. In 2011, the model encouraged only 9,573 American buyers to cough up their cash.
The Scion xB, first introduced in 2004, was far more of a success, at least in first-generation configuration. With its absolutely box-like shape it was the anti-car for many young buyers, generating peak sales of around 60,000 a year. And it spawned a range of imitations, including the American version of the Nissan Cube – itself a less-than-stellar success – and the wildly popular Kia Soul.
But the maker tinkered with success when the gen-2 boxmobile launched in 2007. It gained more rounded corners even as it grew measurably larger – and less fuel-efficient. By 2011, sales were down to 17,000.
Early on, Scion officials set a hard, if arbitrary rule that the Scion brand would never have more than three models in its line-up at any one time. Division General Manager Jack Hollis told TheDetroitBureau.com last year that that rule was being cautiously waived as Scion prepared to launch several new additions, including the iQ microcar and FRS-86, an affordable sports car developed in a joint venture between parent Toyota and Subaru.
With the reported plans to abandon the xB and xD, Scion may yet again be back down to three, though Hollis recently hinted still other new experimental models are being brewed up. When they’ll reach showrooms is uncertain.