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Dead Marque Spotlight: Scion


Now that we’ve taken a look at Saturn and Plymouth, our next Dead Marque Spotlight focuses on Toyota’s discontinued Scion brand. 

Scion’s roots can be traced to Toyota’s ‘Project Genesis’ which was launched in 1999, and actually has its own Wikipedia page.  In a nutshell, the goal of Project Genesis was to lead younger buyers to the Toyota brand, and if you recall Toyota’s product offerings of the late 1990s and early 2000s, this was an uphill battle to say the least.  Through Project Genesis, Toyota USA identified three vehicles that it would market differently from the rest of the lineup.  These were the Celica, MR2 Spyder, and Echo, all of which would be targeted at the youths.  The project was moderately successful, but the shrinking nature of the segments in which these vehicles competed led to the winding down of Project Genesis in favor of a new initiative – Project Exodus (no Wikipedia page this time around) – out of which the Scion brand was formally born.

A total of eight different Scion products were offered from the 2003 through 2016 model years.  Over this time, basically any small, funky vehicle Toyota wanted to sell in the US was marketed as a Scion.  While there was no real unifying element across the lineup – most Scions were badge-engineered versions of Toyota products marketed in Japan – a common theme across the brand was bold colors (many of which came on low-volume, special edition models), branded audio systems, and a healthy mix of factory accessories offered for each vehicle.  These were all things that Toyota expected would draw young people to the brand.  Altogether, Scion wasn’t a total flop, although it surely wasn’t as successful as Toyota had hoped.  Sales peaked at roughly 173,000 units in 2006, before hitting a low of 46,000 in 2010.  After a slight rebound in the ensuing years, sales toward the end plateaued at around 55,000 units per year, and in early 2016, the brand was discontinued.

Over the years though, a handful of unique Toyota models were offered as Scions.  Here are a few of the more notable ones.

2003-2006 Scion xB

2003-2006 Scion xB

An Americanized version of the Japanese-market Toyota bB, the xB was sold over two generations, but it’s the original one that really stood out.  Looking like it could’ve been plucked directly from the streets of downtown Tokyo, the xB gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘boxy styling’.  A subcompact hatchback riding on the Echo/Yaris platform, the xB’s design could be broken down to three rectangular shapes.  One made up the front bumper and chin area, another comprised the front fenders and hood, and a third made up the passenger area.  To this day, the original Scion xB remains one of the more extreme car designs on the road. Find a Scion xB for sale

2012-2015 Scion iQ

2012-2015 Scion iQ

The Scion iQ is a microscopic city car sold in the US during the post-2009 recession era when customers were extra sensitive to gas prices.  In addition to Toyota/Scion, Fiat and Smart (really Mercedes-Benz) both offered ‘city cars’ in the US during this time as well, which were known as the 500 and ForTwo, respectively.  The iQ was a flop in the US, with fewer than 16,000 sold from 2012 through 2015. Blame a thrashy powertrain, mediocre fuel economy, and a laughably small cabin.  As soon as the novelty wore off and people realized they could get a significantly less compromised vehicle for just a little more money, the iQ was dead in the water.

Perhaps my favorite bit of automotive trivia is that Aston Martin offered a version of the iQ as the Cygnet in Europe as a means of complying with EU corporate fleet emissions regulations.  Seriously, Google it. Find a Scion iQ for sale

2012-2016 Scion FR-S

2012-2016 Scion FR-S

You’re probably familiar with the FR-S. Co-developed with Subaru, which sells its own version dubbed the ‘BRZ’, the FR-S launched in 2012 as the company’s long-awaited compact rear-wheel drive sports coupe.  Easily the most impressive product sold under the Scion brand, the FR-S earns praise for great handling and exceptional chassis balance. After Scion’s discontinuation in 2016, Toyota simply replaced the FR-S’s Scion badging with Toyota badges, renamed it the ‘86’, and carried on like nothing had ever happened.  The 86 remains one of the more unique vehicles in Toyota’s lineup, and an updated version is set to debut soon. Find a Scion FR-S for sale

2015 Scion C-HR Concept

2015 Scion C-HR Concept

Toyota’s subcompact CUV, the C-HR, was originally meant to be sold as a Scion, and it even debuted in concept form as the ‘Scion C-HR’ at the 2015 LA Auto Show.  When Scion was discontinued in early 2016, the C-HR was basically a finished product, and was set to go on sale in early 2017.  So Toyota simply changed the badge on the hood, once again like nothing had ever happened, and the Toyota C-HR was born. Find a Toyota C-HR for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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