Scion Open to “Any Product Suitable” as it Searches for Turnaround Formula

New brand boss says all-wheel-drive, SUV even pickup could fit.

by on Jul.31, 2015

Scion Vice President Doug Murtha said recently he's open to any number of new models for the youth-oriented brand.

Scion will bring two all-new models to market for 2016 – half of its total line-up. That includes both the new iM hatchback and the iA, the youthful brand’s first sedan. But don’t be surprised to see Scion push into even newer territory in the next few years.

Struggling to regain momentum after a decade of declining sales, Scion’s new management team is making major changes, including a shift away from the dark, wildly creative advertising that marked its early years. But it’s ultimately all about product, stressed General Manager Doug Murtha, who told Scion just might get its own pickup, utility vehicle, or at least something else with all-wheel-drive.

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“I’m a hand-raiser for any product suitable for the brand,” Murtha said during an interview in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he’d come for a media drive of the new Scion iA and iM models.

Among the most significant shifts in strategy, Scion is no longer limiting itself to just three products at any one time. It threw out that rule with the arrival of the little FR-S sports car developed as part of a joint venture with Subaru. That could mean as many as six different vehicles at one time, the Scion chief said.

Scion is replacing half of its line-up for 2016 with the new iM hatchback and iA sedan.

And where Scion originally was designed to pick up some of Toyota’s more quirky foreign models – like the original xB – halfway through their lifecycle, some of its future products will be designed specifically for the brand and will likely last a bit longer, Murtha suggested.

The arrival of the iA sedan, meanwhile, shows that there’s been a shift in the definition of what qualifies as a Scion vehicle. And that could be stretched even further over the next few years.

“I’d be open to a pickup or a crossover,” Murtha said, noting that Scion did explore the former option a few years back in the form of A-BAT pickup concept.

The 2009 show car looked a fair bit like the quirky Santa Cruz that Hyundai is now expected to build – though the Scion A-BAT concept featured a hybrid drivetrain. That’s apparently not something the brand is now looking at, hybrids to be left to the more expensive Toyota and Lexus brands.

But all-wheel-drive is another story.

While Scion has remained strong in a few regions, such as Los Angeles, it has fallen off the radar in a number of other markets, especially in the Snowbelt. As a result, overall sales plunged from a 2006 peak of 173,000 to just 58,000 last year. The brand could use something that would help it gain traction – quite literally.

(TDB takes its first drive in the new Scion iA sedan. For details, Click Here.)

“I’d be very interested in an all-wheel-drive vehicle,” Murtha said. Much like Lexus has experienced after adding that traction-enhancing technology to its line-up, “It’s a way we (at Scion) could increase our share in some colder climates.”

While Murtha cautioned that there is so far “no commitment” from corporate planners to give Scion an AWD model, it clearly is something he’s pushing hard for.

(Click Here to see more about Scion’s plans to reconnect with young buyers.)

No matter what Scion gets to flesh out its line-up, Murtha said you won’t see rebadged versions of mainstream models like the Toyota Corolla. While it failed to generate much interest, the Scion chief said he personally liked the little iQ two-seater, an example of the “catch-you-off-guard” products the brand needs.

“I would love a line-up of vehicles you couldn’t easily throw a Toyota badge on,” he concluded.

(Scion uses alphabet soup to punch up new models. Click Here for the story.)

Whether the new line-up, including the new iA and iM, as well as the FR-S and tC coupe, fit that mold – and can bring in the hip young buyers Scion desperately craves – remains to be seen.

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