The news broke this week that the Scion brand will fade gently into its parent company, Toyota.
Announcement: Scion Brand to Transition to Toyota
To anyone who pays attention to the auto industry (and metrics like “number of cars sold”), this is not a surprise. Scion sales were abysmal after its initial spike in the early 2000’s.
The poor sales were a bit of a head scratcher, since after all, its parent company was Toyota. TOYOTA.
Many factors have been blamed. Design choices intended to appeal to broader customer bases not only failed to attract the numbers they hoped, they actually alienated the existing base. Marketing efforts failed to communicate a clear value proposition. The brand’s image missed the mark with its intended age group. The recession. Whatever.
Personally, I would blame it squarely on Scion’s terrible website. In thirteen years, it never got any better. Boring design riddled with browser-level issues. (I use Chrome.) There’s no excuse for a Toyota-backed youth brand to have a website that doesn’t work properly.
But I guess that won’t be a problem for Toyota anymore, since Toyota’s website functions just fine.
And while it’s sad to see a whole brand exit the stage for good (remember Oldsmobile? Aw…), this is actually kind of great news, at least for cultural history enthusiasts. Let me explain:
Scion was around for thirteen years. In that time, it put a very good amount of funky-looking vehicles on the road. And these vehicles are meant to last for a long time. They’ll be on the road well into the future.
Buying a Scion was never meant to be a prudent financial decision. They tried to act like it was, with their “pure pricing” initiatives and a host of other things Toyota considers “achievements.”
But for consumers, it was never about money. It was always an emotional angle. (Except with the old ladies–I think for them it was about the money, and also the higher seats that made it easier to get in and out of.)
Anyway, it stands to reason that most Scion owners don’t give a fuck whether or not their car will be “worth” more or less because of the disappearance of the brand.
But money aside, there is a new kind of value that we’ll assign to these weird little cars.
I’m getting to the point.
I have some strong memories of the parking lot at my high school in the late 90’s. For some reason, there were quite a few Datsuns.
These cars didn’t look like any other cars in the parking lot. They were strange and mysterious and just extremely cool. And you couldn’t get a car like that anymore, because they didn’t make them anymore, at least not in the US. Anybody who had one either had an entertaining story of how they got it…or, if they just got it from their parents, they probably had entertaining parents.
And this was at a high school with its fair share of rich kids, who had brand-new Mustangs, Camaros and Benz coupes. And more often than not, the kids who drove them were dicks. So I always resisted the notion that a car makes a person cool.
But somehow, when I saw someone I didn’t know climbing into a Datsun, I couldn’t help but entertain the thought that that kid was cool. Because of the car, yes. At least, more interesting because of the car.
That was pretty exclusive to Datsuns.
I predict that Scion will enjoy a similar legacy.
That’s my hope, anyway. If I can stretch twelve more years out of my ’08 xD, then I can give it to my daughter and she will definitely be the only one at her school with a car like that.
You’re welcome, daughter.