Scion Brand Seen Struggling in the Market Place


Detroit News

Ten years after Toyota Motor Corp. launched its youth-oriented Scion marque, the brand has been struggling in both sales and quality ratings.

Find out more about the situation from Toyota VP Doug Murtha.

Ten years after Toyota Motor Corp. launched its youth-oriented Scion marque, the brand is struggling.

Only one Scion product is doing well this year, the new FR-S sports car, and it is actually a rebadged Subaru. Without it, Scion sales would be down sharply.

But that is not the only sign of trouble. Scion’s customers are getting older. Toyota acknowledges that awareness of the brand among the teens and 20-somethings who represent Scion’s target market is not what the company hoped it would be by now.

And, in mid June, Scion came in dead last in the annual J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study.

“Ten years ago, Scion took off like a bat out of hell. They were the first people since Volkswagen to successfully pull off youth marketing — and they did it by never saying the word ‘youth,’ ” said Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics LLP. “Their initial demographics were something other automakers would have killed their mothers for.”

Toyota Vice President Doug Murtha, who was tapped to lead the Scion brand last fall, says they still are.

“We’re still a good 15 years or more below the average industry age,” Murtha told The Detroit News. “We’re still doing what we were brought here to do. At the same time, I would like to be doing that in greater volumes.”

Scion sales peaked at more than 173,000 vehicles in 2006. Last year, they did not even hit 74,000. And that was an almost 50 percent increase over 2011’s tally. Scion’s share of the market has also fallen, from an even 1 percent in 2006 to just 0.5 percent last year. And that figure has slipped to just 0.4 percent this year.

Murtha also blames the age of the Scion lineup. With the exception of the hot-selling FR-S and the admittedly polarizing iQ, most of its vehicles are desperately in need of a refresh.

Those are coming, starting with a reboot of once-popular tC that is just now arriving in showrooms. Murtha believes that will help push Scion sales “closer to 80 (thousand) this year.”