As you may already have heard, Toyota is ending its years-long experiment with the Scion brand. The cars remaining under that mark will be relabeled as Toyotas. And so ends the carmaker’s venture into a “youth brand.”
If that sounds like a Change of Venue Friday blog post that is pretty far afield from the legal, I agree. But I take the shuttering of Scion very personally, as my daily driver is a Scion xB. And I worry: Did I have something to do with the brand’s elimination? I mean, can the essence of a brand survive its users?
Let me explain.
Back in 2005, when our family bought the new car, we were impressed by its interior space and, yes, even its quirky look. Despite the critiques from armchair-engineer friends who noted the poor wind-resistance likely created by the car’s slab-faced visage, we were charmed by the appearance—and the car’s lightness and resulting quick response, especially with the manual transmission, made driving it a pleasure.
And so it remains today. (Yes, we keep our cars for quite a long time. Sorry to the durable-goods economy that relies on more frequent purchases.)
(Here is a slideshow detailing Scion through the years, and what I think have been some missteps as it sought to make the car more mainstream.)
But there were a few red flags that we were interlopers into a brand that was aimed at another demographic.
First, the base price was super-reasonable, but the amenities you could add on were pricy—and of no interest to us.
Gel lights to create a nighttime glow beneath your car? Um, no. Glowing rings to surround your cupholders and lend a club-vibe to your Ecstacy-filled experience? Thank you no thank you. Remove the rear seats entirely to fit in a couch-sized subwoofer? Nope.
We drove off the lot with a car that had no more than we needed—and that was probably more stripped down than the dealer had anticipated.
Meantime, we received even more reliable evidence that we were gatecrashers in Toyota’s rave/party line. A cousin of my wife is a longtime Toyota employee. Younger than us and working in California, even she opts to purchase from their Lexus line. Very grown up, you see.
So when she discovered we had bought an xB—and when she later saw us in it—she nearly wrinkled her nose at the cognitive dissonance. Her furrowed brow suggested that thousands of hours of focus-group focus were being squandered every time I slipped behind the wheel.
It’s true, she confirmed: That car was aimed at people decades younger (and probably cooler, though she didn’t say that part out loud).
All that came flooding back to me on February 3 when Toyota made its announcement. And I have to wonder if its finely wrought brand had been chipped away by drivers like me—outside the demographic but enamored of a speedy and peculiar car.
Scion is moving on. And I figure I’ve got 10 more years in ours. See you on the drift-track.
Have a fun—and boxy—weekend.Follow @azatty