Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Scion brand image fading? New xB to blame?

I was reading an article on Autoblog.com about Scion sales being down and how the brand's image has went from a lot of younger 20-somethings buying its vehicles to a higher-aged demographic buying the cars. Without tooting my own horn too much, I'd just like to say I saw this coming – and so did a lot of other first-generation Scion xB owners. Is the newer, portlier xB to blame? Afterall, this was the Scion most people associated with the brand.

When the xB was first was introduced, it was truly unlike anything else on the U.S. market. Its boxy styling, small shape, and fuel-sipping engine made for a combination unlike any vehicle sold in the U.S. It bucked the SUV trend. It spit in the face of gas prices. It was a cool tall wagon. It was also inexpensive to buy and own. It developed a strong cult following, and all seemed to be going well.

Then, for 2008, Scion decided to introduce the second-generation xB (which, in my opinion, should never have been called the xB to begin with). This new design was aid to deal with some of the criticisms of the first-gen xB. These criticisms were things like it was too small, there wasn't enough cargo space behind the rear seats, and it was too underpowered. But guess what? Being small, lightweight, and being only being around 108 hp. made it fuel efficient, easy to drive, and easy to park, yet you could still get a shit-ton of stuff in it. I think those were qualities people wanted in a small car; qualities that made the original xB unique for the U.S. market. It made some people realize they didn't need extra horsepower or even the extra space in larger vehicle.

While I can't fault Toyota for listening to its customers, perhaps they should've stuck to the original plan and brought over the second-generation Japanese-market bB instead of offering the bloated second-generation xB in the U.S.? The formula of importing a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) vehicle worked for the first-generation xB, which was simply a rebadged Toyota bB from Japan converted to left-hand drive and made to meet U.S. crash specs. Even Toyota couldn't say it wouldn't work because it did.

Perhaps Scion could've retained it's niche market (or possibly increased it?) but introducing the similarly sized JDM Toyota bB as the xB?

Why couldn't Toyota simply have steered buyers who wanted something larger to the Matrix?

Scion is saying that it wants to introduce a fourth model. Perhaps they should bring over the Toyota bB again? Afterall, Nissan is bringing the Cube over, and that might scoop us the first-gen xB owners.

Toyota bB (Toyota Japan's Web site)
Scion sales down; brand image in flux

No comments: