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Sayonara, Scion: Toyota Ending Brand Geared Toward Younger Drivers

Scion vehicles displayed at the North American International Auto Show last month in Detroit.
Carlos Osorio
Scion vehicles displayed at the North American International Auto Show last month in Detroit.

Toyota has announced that it is pulling the plug on Scion, its offshoot car brand aimed at younger drivers.

Scion, which started in 2003, has seen lagging sales, with a mere 56,167 cars sold last year in the U.S.

Scion owners will be able to get their cars serviced by Toyota, and many Scion vehicles will be re-branded as Toyotas, according to a press release.

"This isn't a step backward for Scion; it's a leap forward for Toyota," says Jim Lentz, founding vice president of Scion and now CEO of Toyota Motor North America. "Scion has allowed us to fast-track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network."

The company is framing Scion as a success story, noting that "70 percent of Scions were purchased by customers new to Toyota and 50 percent were under 35 years old."

The decision to kill off Scion was prompted by customers' changing needs, Toyota explains. "Today's younger buyers still want fun-to-drive vehicles that look good, but they are also more practical. They, like their parents, have come to appreciate the Toyota brand and its traditional attributes of quality, dependability and reliability."

But some critics say the brand was mishandled. An opinion piece in Forbes states:

"The cars didn't really have performance chops like other small-car brands — say, Mini. Toyota abandoned the early design distinctiveness of the brand that was exhibited by models such as the boxy xB. And Scion vehicles weren't showcases for alternative power trains or even carriers for the company's signature command of mild-hybrid technology as in Prius.

"In the end, Scion just had fuel economy and price, and those just didn't stand up as competitive differentiators anymore, especially with plunging gasoline prices leaving dealers with huge inventories of fuel-sippers across the market."

And as MotorTrend points out, "A brand targeted at young people in an era when those young people are buying fewer and fewer cars occupies an extremely narrow niche."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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