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Toyota eyes Scion for youth push

Different world: The tC sports coupe, with the xA (left) and xB hatchbacks.

Toyota hopes to broaden its youth appeal with the Scion sub-brand

Toyota logo17 Nov 2004

By BRUCE NEWTON and MARTON PETTENDY

TOYOTA’S youth-oriented Scion brand is back on Toyota Australia’s agenda.

The US-market sub-brand – or at least the funky, exclusively designed vehicles that wear the Scion badge – have long been a subject of interest for executive chairman John Conomos.

But now it seems a decision to green-light production of right-hand drive versions is the only formality standing between Australia and the Scion brand as a whole.

"So far as Scion is concerned, we are looking at that concept, but to get to Scion as a brand we need the product," Mr Conomos told GoAuto.

"With product, good product, and good pricing, with a strong network, we could do very well. But we don’t have the product (and) there is no plan for right-hand drive versions of those cars yet.

"We haven’t decided on the name yet, until we get the product. The name is quite good, it doesn’t conjure up in my old brain the same extent it does in the American market but it may well do." Toyota has a management team investigating the viability of the project for Australia in the US.

"(Toyota Australia marketing chief) Scott Grant was one of the pioneers in the genesis program to determine the value of that brand or that direction. It holds great promise, great promise,” said Mr Conomos, who added that a sub-brand would need to be created to sell Scion vehicles to a new, younger audience.

"Scion the brand is selling to 35-year-olds not 25-year-olds in the USA so far. So the answer is ‘yes’, with the right product we think we would need another brand for sure, but not to diminish the Toyota brand.

"It’s like Lexus – we set up a whole new world, it is a pretty exciting concept, it’s worked in the USA and it’s transferable if you get the right product." The Scion brand comprises three models in the US, including a light five-door hatch labelled xA, a boxy five-door minivan called xB and an exclusively designed small coupe badged tC, which sells at $US16,000 – just above Echo pricing and well below the $US20,000 Corolla.

Currently being rolled out to other states following its successful introduction in California, Scion sold 9000 vehicles last year and is expected to attract some 150,000 buyers in 2004.

"The Scion brand is Black Eyed Peas, youth market, off-the-wall adver-tising, the difference in education of the network, the ability to communicate with young people, a completely different philosophy in media execution, advertising and public relations. It is just a different world," said Mr Conomos.

"Trying to sell a Corolla to an 18-year-old is very difficult because it has got an established market which is growing. The baby-boomer market is moving and so Corolla is moving as well. But look, they are opportunities, they are terrific opportunities. The know-how is available but until we get the product…" The Toyota boss concedes, however, that Scion’s introduction will take a back seat to a replacement for its light segment-leading Echo in 2005.

"We have very strong and exciting plans for the Echo replacement – very strong plans," he said.

"The product is substantially improved, better looking and we think it will maintain its market leadership position.

"We think it will fend off a lot of current Asian competition. So we are very strong on it. We have seen the car and we like it."

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