Cars That Could Have Worked as Scion Models

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MINI ClubmanMINI ClubmanMINI ClubmanMINI ClubmanMINI ClubmanHyundai VelosterHyundai VelosterHyundai VelosterHyundai VelosterHyundaiNissan JukeNissan JukeNissan JukeNissan JukeNissan JukeMitsubishi i-MIEVMitsubishi i-MIEVMitsubishi i-MIEVMitsubishi i-MIEVMitsubishi i-MIEVToyota S-FR ConceptToyota S-FR ConceptToyota S-FR ConceptToyota S-FR ConceptToyota S-FR Concept
It’s always sad when a manufacturer bites the dust. I, for instance, was sad to see Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, and Saab go after General Motors couldn't keep them afloat anymore. But the truth is those brands had to go, just like Scion had to go. The recipe for failing manufacturers is a rather simple one - they failed to offer models that adhere to the principles and ideology of the target group of consumers.
Examples are plentiful. Pontiac, this juggernaut of the American automotive industry, used to manufacture things like the Bonneville, GTO, and Firebird. Then it all came crashing down with the vomit-inducing Fiero, rebadged cars from Australia, and the Aztek. When all is said and done, the untimely death of Scion is more or less similar to Pontiac’s downfall.

To put it plainly, Scion is a 13-year-old attempt at luring youngsters into the showroom. Toyota launched the Scion brand in 2003 with one purpose in mind - those teenagers and young adults that buy a Scion as their first car will grow up. As grownups, they would transition to Toyota for their family hauling needs. After the kids finish school, the aging grownups would spend their cash on the crown jewel of the Japanese manufacturer - Lexus. The problem is, Toyota failed at making Scion attractive to the crowd.

Scion was a good idea in its first years as an automaker. Motown was a similarly good idea, but that didn’t last long either. Just look at the state of Detroit Motor City today and don’t forget that Eminem started his rapping career in the city that gave us Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Diana Ross & the Supremes, and Smokey Robinson. Just like the rise and fall of Motown music, an initially blooming Scion found itself on a downward spiral after calendar year 2006, when it sold a record 173,034 units. Sales slumped to 56,167 units in 2015, but what led Scion to this outcome?

The answer is a dreary range of cars. The xB is arguably the only Scion worthy of its badge. The iA, on the other hand, is a Mazda2 Sedan in drags. The iM is a Euro-spec Toyota Auris. The tC is older than the Old Testament. And the FR-S? That should’ve been sold as the Toyota GT86 because the 86 in its name is like catnip for those youngsters who used to watch the Initial D anime series for the hero car - a Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno. Or better still, it should’ve been sold exclusively as a Subaru because it’s powered by a flat-four engine.

There’s nothing we or Toyota can do to save Scion from its transition back to the mother company in August 2016. Provided I had the choice to save Scion, I would’ve tailored the model range to the needs of the brand’s target audience. Other than the five examples featured in the following list, feel free to drop a comment with your suggestion of a car that would’ve saved Scion from the grim reaper. Here goes:

MINI Clubman - the funky station wagon

MINI Clubman
Photo: MINI

The first-generation Scion xB is the best model ever produced by the brand, hands down. The second generation, on the other hand, didn’t live up to the hype and expectations of potential customers. But if Scion would have reimagined the xB as something similar to the MINI Clubman, the xB would have sold better than ice cream in hell. Or a rapper going mainstream. Or... I’m sure you get what I’m on about, right?

A box-shaped station wagon with funky this and that could have turned out to be a sure shot solution to raising the appeal of the xB. Instead of a Clubman-inspired concept, Scion failed miserably with the dull second-generation xB. I’m afraid that I’m getting drowsy from talking about the awfulness known as the xB, so let’s move on to the second car that could have bailed Scion out of its misery.

Hyundai Veloster - the sporty hatchback

Hyundai Veloster
Photo: Hyundai

Forget everything you know about the Hyundai Veloster. A kammback coupe is an irresistible proposition for young people who want to roll with the cool kids. Heck, the styling alone would’ve guaranteed better sales for the Veloster-inspired Scion model compared to the atrocious tC coupe. Another plus point of the Veloster is the sub-$20,000 price. People in their 20s can’t afford to spend over 20 big ones on the first car, you know.

The Hyundai Veloster sold 63,508 units in December 2015, which is more than what all Scion models sold in calendar year 2015 (56,167 units). Better still, the Veloster is 403 pounds (182 kilograms) lighter than the tC. For a front-wheel-drive car motivated by a four-cylinder engine, every pound counts in terms of driving dynamics and fuel economy. In South Korea, the Veloster is marketed under the Premium Youth Lab sub-brand, which makes me wonder if Scion is ignorant or the research team isn’t fluent in Korean. Dear former market analyst from Scion, to sell your product to a member of the younger audience, you first need to understand him. Okay?

Nissan Juke - the urban dweller

Nissan Juke
Photo: Nissan
The Scion C-HR Concept would’ve been a noteworthy addition to the model range, but Scion hit the sack before a production version reached the dealerships. Instead, the C-HR will be sold as a Toyota starting from the 2017 model year. And yes, the C-HR is a similar notion to Nissan’s Juke. Toyota might know lots of things on the subject of making and selling cars, but it’s as clear as day it doesn’t know how to make outlandish cars.

The Juke is a frog on wheels with an infuriatingly small trunk, though it has an ace up its sleeve - its weirdness. As any young adult knows, being different is as cool as it gets. It boggles the mind that Scion failed to enter the hottest segment in the United States with a rival for the Nissan Juke. The management of Scion should be ashamed of themselves for not bringing the void in Scion’s range to the attention of Toyota before every automaker started to compete with Nissan for a share in the mini sport utility vehicle segment.

Mitsubishi i-MIEV - the car to rock down to Electric Avenue

Mitsubishi i\-MIEV
Photo: Mitsubishi

This may come as a surprise for two reasons. One - Toyota is madly in love with hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen cars, not electric vehicles. Two - the Mitsubishi i-MIEV is too small, too ugly, and its range isn’t that great. It’s a disappointing overall package, I’ll give you that, but as a Scion, it would’ve made sense to the young U.S. audience.

It takes vision, perseverance, and courage to turn your back on convention, but Mitsubishi set its own standards with the i-MIEV. As the cheapest electric car on sale in the United States, the i-MIEV is significantly cheaper than the ever-popular Nissan Leaf. Considering that electric cars are trending with the cool crowd, a Scion-badged i-MIEV at an affordable price would have been a ticket to fly for many eco-conscious youngsters. It’s irritating that Scion didn’t think about entering the electric vehicle market with such a proposition.

Toyota S-FR - the inexpensive RWD sports car

Toyota S\-FR Concept
Photo: Toyota

The Scion FR-S is great and all, but it has a problem. That problem is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. This is the reason Toyota will pitch the S-FR Concept as an entry-level sports car, one that will be similar in size to the MX-5 Miata and priced lower than the best-selling two-seater convertible of all time. Try to imagine Scion offering such a sports car in the U.S. of A. Slotted under the Scion FR-S, the S-FR fits like a jigsaw falling into place.

The S-FR would’ve aided in making a whole new generation fall in love with driving, even though the lamprey mouth may turn off some people. The JDM-spec Toyota S-FR is expected to cost approximately $12,500 in Japan, which makes me believe the US-spec Scion S-FR would have been priced at $18,500 or so, provided that you can fit inside and you don't mind winding the window down manually. Cheap thrills? We’re down for that!
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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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