Who Was the Scion xA Buyer?

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scionlife.com Scion xA Toyota Yaris Spec Vitz Racer

The introductory model to the Scion brand line up explained it all.

The year was 2004, and it was a very unusual time in the North American market. Toyota saw the trend that it’s brand was attracting increasingly older customers. While that is a fine way to sell cars, older customers usually have more money, there is a limited return when that may well be their last car purchase. The brand needed new blood, and fast.

Rather unusually, despite this “dire” situation, Toyota didn’t seem to put much effort into solving the problem. The Scion brand was launched, with the xA compact sedan and xB wagon as it’s lineup. We are going to focus on the xA, because it best highlights the issue at hand. Despite Toyota “needing” to get new buyers into the door, it didn’t produce an all-new vehicle to meet the market head on. Instead, they re-skinned the Yaris, to produce the xA.

Both the Yaris and the xA share the same platform, and powertrains. They are the same size, same price, and roughly the same in terms of available content. From a distance, it’s easy to get the two confused for one another. This limp-wristed offering reeks of badge engineering. For the uninitiated, badge engineering is replicating the same car across different manufacturers with only minor aesthetic changes, and “swapping the badges” for the correct brand. This half-assed strategy is what bit the domestic manufacturers in the ass hard, around the same time. Perhaps Toyota was drinking the General Motors kool-aid in 2004?

So, was the Scion xA buyer a youthful, freshly-licensed kiddo like Toyota envisioned?

Of course not, it may have been comparatively cheap, but high school kids can barely come up with weed money, let alone thirteen grand for a bare bones econobox. For the young people with the financial freedom to buy a new car in the first place, my guess is that they also have the means to buy a much nicer Mazda3 for a few thousand dollars more. No, the real Scion xA buyer was made clear after the dust was left to settle. It was the same geriatric who would have bought a Yaris, but they stumbled onto the Scion lot first and were swept up by the appeal of the “no haggle” salesforce.

Swing and a miss, by Toyota. And that really set the tone for the Scion brand as a whole. More money was poured into marketing and “youth outreach” than actually developing a worthwhile product. Sales dwindled. Actually, dwindled isn’t the right way to describe it: within four years sales plummeted.

Hopefully Toyota and the other manufacturers have learned, perhaps the hard way, that badge engineering isn’t pull consumers into the showroom. Quality, and innovation will.

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