With the announcement that the Scion brand is going extinct, I got to thinking about how the brand affected me. And believe me, it did. In fact, it shaped this blog.
From the late 1990s though the early 2000s, I used to frequent the Japanese market sites of brands such as Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota. I was a big fan of the funky small boxy cars the Japanese markets had. When I began working at Scale Auto magazine back in 2001, I remember when Tamiya came out with the Toyota bB 1:24 scale plastic model kit. I remember thinking the bB was so different, so cool. I actually said aloud that I wish someday Toyota would bring it to the U.S. because I'd buy one. Not too long after, Toyota announced it was creating a new brand called Scion and it showed the bbX concept in 2002—essentially a Toyota bB. I couldn't believe it. I had to have one.
I visited the Chicago Auto Show in 2004 specifically to see the new xB. It was love at first site. I had honestly never fallen for a car like this before. It was so different. A year later, I sold my 1998 Honda Prelude SH and purchased a Polar White 2005 Scion xB with a manual transmission. On more than one occasion, my coworkers would tell me how unhappy I'd be going from a 200 hp sports car to a 108 hp toaster. I said that the fuel savings alone would make me happy.
|My xB on 18x7 (+40) ATS Comps. Wheels were big, tire sidewalls were small.|
In early 2006, Mercedes and I traveled to Germany where we toured the BMW factory. They talked a lot about building the "Ultimate Driving Machine" and making their cars perform as well as possible. It was there I decided to go a different route with the xB.
|Leeeaaan into it! The xB was actually a fun autocrosser.|
|The xB near Mt. Hood in Oregon|
That next week I attended my first Scion car show at Beaverton Scion. I still had a Wisconsin license plate. I was amazed at the fact a dealer was putting this show on just for Scion vehicles. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming and we had a blast. In fact, I still keep in touch with several people to this day who I met at that show.
Fast forward to spring of 2007. We were getting settled in Oregon, and I knew I wanted to take the xB up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mt. St. Helens. The road was newly paved and curvy which made for a great driving road. However, rather than simply going up alone, I posted on Scionlife to see if anyone else wanted to go too. I think we ended up with 10 or 11 cars. We had a really good time. The next year, Scion of Gladstone offered to sponsor the run by chipping in food. We had bunch more people go; maybe 30 or so cars. The run's success got the attention of Scion corporate, and they have since sponsored the Mt. St. Helens Cruise event every year since (even last year). Scion was forming friendships, creating events, and turning people into gearheads. Scion had a great, supportive following back then.
|My Rays Texan Shotguns (16x7, +37, 4x100 and 5x100)|
Anyhow, Scion was making subcompact cars cool. The xB was cool. The xA was cool. Suddenly, other subcompact cars started appearing on the market. The Toyota Yaris, the Nissan Versa, The Suzuki SX4, and Honda Fit. Since I always had an affinity for smaller vehicles, I thought this was great. Choices!
I did have a few issues with my xB. The clutch went out just before the warranty ran out. After a fight, the dealer did pay for it (with help from a rock star service manager who I am still friends with). Shortly after the replacement,—I mean within a few thousand miles—the clutch started slipping again, and was back in the shop. Plus, there was some premature rust happening on the doors. At the time, I don't think I'd kept a car more than a year and a half, and that two year new car itch was surfacing, this time in the shape of the Toyota Yaris three-door hatchback. So I stripped the xB of many of its parts and traded it in on my current Yaris.
In 2008 Scion came out the the second generation xB and replaced the xA with the xD. I immediately didn't like the xB. I wanted to like the xD, but did didn't do much for me. Then in 2008, I got laid off from my job.
With my love for small vehicles galvanized thanks to my xB ownership, I decided to start a blog site called Subcompact Culture to proclaim that some people actually preferred to drive small vehicles and may legitimately have an interest in them. The first post was January 23, 2008. Not long after starting the site, I wrote an editorial called Scion in a Slump? That was almost eight years ago to the day that I write this sentence.
Subcompact Culture has now been going for just over eight years. And honestly, if I hadn't fell in love with a Scion xB, I might not be writing this. I might not have had the opportunities I've had, and I might not be doing what I'm doing today both personally and professionally. So for that, Scion, I am grateful.
The brand was a grand experiment, and to call it a failure might be an overstatement. Although it didn't go in the direction I'd hoped, its initial product offerings helped to shape me into the automotive enthusiast I am today.