A Look Back at Scion: Toyota’s Bold Experiment

Hey there, remember Scion? Toyota’s youth-focused brand that launched back in 2003? For a hot minute, Scion was the most excellent car company around. You probably knew someone who drove an XB or TC with flashy custom details. Scion set out to appeal to younger buyers in a whole new way. They emphasized customization, held many events, and tried building a real community around the brand.

Toyota boldly moved to launch an entirely new brand to target Gen Y. While Scion started strong, sales declined over the years as their core audience aged out of the target demographic. After 13 years, Toyota pulled the plug on the experiment. Though short-lived, the car made a considerable impact and took significant risks that shaped how automakers market to millennials today. Let’s look at this fascinating story of how Scion came to be, what made them stand out, and why they ultimately faded away.

The Birth of Scion: A Bold Move by Toyota


When Toyota launched Scion in 2003, it was a bold move. The goal was to attract younger buyers to the Toyota brand, so Scion operated independently with funky designs and savvy marketing.

Quirky and Affordable

The brand’s first cars—the boxy xB and sporty tC—targeted teens and 20-somethings with quirky style and affordable pricing. Scion cultivated a hip, youthful image through edgy marketing campaigns and sponsorships of indie music concerts and skateboarding events.

The strategy worked – for a while. The car’s sales grew for several years, attracting the youngest buyers of any brand. But tastes changed, and the car’s boxy designs fell out of fashion. Sales declined, and the car’s ageing fanbase began eyeing other brands.

A Fading Star

By the 2010s, the car was struggling. New models like the FR-S sports car and iM hatchback failed to spark interest. In 2016, Toyota announced the end of Scion, absorbing the brand to focus on revitalizing its lineup.

Though short-lived, Scion introduced many young drivers to the Toyota brand and inspired copycats from competitors. Its spirit lives on in Toyota’s current youth-focused models with bolder styling and tech-savvy features. The car was a bold experiment that shaped Toyota for the future. Though the star faded, its memory lingers as a flashpoint when Toyota took a chance on the youth market.

The car may be gone, but its influence and impact on Toyota and its industry will endure. The brand went out swinging, and that daring spirit is its lasting legacy.

Scion’s Quirky and Customizable Car Models

The brand launched with three quirky, customizable models that appealed to younger buyers.

The boxy XB was the car’s most recognizable vehicle. This compact wagon offered ample cargo room and space for five adults. You could outfit the xB with an array of optional accessories to match your style.

The tC coupe blended sporty looks with an affordable price tag. This two-door model had a sleek profile but retained the spacious, practical interior that Scion was known for. The tC was a popular choice for customization with a vast selection of aftermarket parts.

The car’s iQ microcar maximized minimalism. At just 10 feet long, it pioneered efficient urban mobility. Four seats and a surprising amount of interior room made the iQ a viable option as a primary vehicle. Add in a low cost of ownership, and the iQ was a win for city dwellers.

These vehicles embodied Scion’s vision of appealing, affordable, and customizable transportation for younger drivers. While Scion is no longer, their mark on the industry lives on in the brand’s former “youthful” spirit, which other automakers have since tried to emulate in their vehicles targeting Generation Y and Z. The car helped prove that entry-level cars don’t have to be boring to drive or own.

The Demise of the Scion Brand

The brand was Toyota’s bold experiment to attract younger buyers, but after 13 years, Toyota pulled the plug. What led to Scion’s demise?

Lack of New Models

The car started strong with funky, affordable models like the boxy XB and sporty TC coupe that resonated with younger drivers. However, the brand failed to release new, exciting models to keep up with the interest consistently. The last new Scion model was introduced in 2010, and sales steadily declined in the following years. Scion couldn’t give buyers a reason to return to showrooms without fresh options.

Increased Competition

When the car was launched, it had a niche catering to Generation Y. But soon, competitors took notice and started releasing their youth-targeted models. Brands like Kia, Hyundai, and Mazda offered stylish, affordable models with the latest tech and safety features that stole the spotlight from the car. For the same price or less, buyers could get a fully loaded competitor model with more power and premium amenities versus a basic Scion.

Toyota’s Brand Power

Ironically, Toyota’s strong brand may have also hurt the car. As the models aged, they lacked the latest advanced safety features and tech that Toyota models offered. For the same or slightly higher price, buyers could get a Toyota with a solid reputation for reliability, quality, and safety, but the brand couldn’t compete.

Scion’s funky, affordable models, which once resonated with younger drivers, ultimately failed to keep up with the competition and Toyota’s brand power. The car’s story serves as a reminder that brand success comes from continually adapting to changes in the market and giving buyers reasons to keep coming back for more.

Scion’s Legacy and Influence on Toyota


The car’s short but memorable run significantly influenced Toyota and still impacts the company today.

A Youth-Focused Brand

Scion was Toyota’s bold experiment to connect with younger buyers. By launching the car as a separate brand, Toyota allowed it to take risks and push boundaries. Scion’s edgy, urban style and highly customizable models attracted youthful enthusiasts seeking affordable, sporty rides.

Scion also fostered community by sponsoring indie music and extreme sports events. This grassroots marketing built strong brand loyalty. Though Scion only produced four models over 13 years, each gained a cult following.

Lasting Innovations

Even though Scion shut down in 2016, its youth-focused spirit lives on in Toyota. Scion pioneered key strategies Toyota now uses across brands:

  • Highly customizable vehicles. Scion proved customers crave personalization. Toyota now offers more models with options for custom wheels, suspension, and tech upgrades straight from the factory.
  • Digital-first marketing. Scion was an early adopter of social media and streaming music promotions. Toyota now has brand campaigns on platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and Instagram.
  • Simplicity. Scion’s no-haggle pricing and streamlined options made buying easy. Toyota has applied similar simplicity to models like the Corolla Hatchback, with one affordable price for a well-equipped car.
  • Community-building. The car’s sponsorships and owner events strengthened loyalty. Toyota now hosts enthusiast meetups, rallies, and off-road adventures to build experiences around brands like Tacoma and 4Runner.

Though the car had a short run, its youthful, innovative spirit transformed Toyota and shaped its path. The car proved taking risks on new ideas could pay off, even if the brand itself didn’t last forever. The car’s legacy lives on in a bolder, more youthful Toyota and is dedicated to creating communities and experiences, not just selling cars.

Where Are Scions Now? A Collector’s Guide

So where have all the Scions gone? Although Toyota discontinued the brand in 2016, many models have become collectors’ items, especially those from the early years. Here’s a quick guide to the Scion models that have stood the test of time.

The boxy XB was the car’s first hit. Its quirky style attracted younger buyers and those looking for an affordable, eye-catching city car. The first-generation XB (2004-2007) is the most sought-after, with its 1.5-litre engine and optional TRD supercharger. The XB was redesigned in 2008 but never quite matched the charm of the original toaster-shaped model.

The tC coupe seamlessly blended sporty styling with everyday practicality. It was introduced in 2005 and featured a 2.4-litre engine, panoramic moonroof, and hatchback versatility. The second-generation model (2011-2016) received modest styling tweaks but kept the same winning formula. Well-maintained tCs can still be found for under $10,000, making them an affordable collector’s item.

For those seeking an extra dose of performance, the tC Release Series featured upgraded suspensions, sport-tuned exhausts and unique styling details. Only 2,000 Release Series 7.0 models were made in 2013, the rarest of the bunch.

The iQ microcar (2012-2015) demonstrated the car’s knack for efficient and innovative designs. At just 10 feet long, the iQ could park perpendicular to the curb and seat four adults. Its 1.3-litre engine delivered over 40 mpg on highways, impressive for such a small car.

The car may be gone, but its youthful and pioneering spirit lives on in models that pushed boundaries and brought customization to the masses. A well-kept Scion can still make a quirky yet compelling choice for the nostalgic or performance-minded driver.


So there you have it: the car’s story and bold experiment to attract younger drivers. Though the brand is no more, Scion gave us a glimpse into the future for over a decade and showed what a youth-focused, lifestyle-driven brand could be. They went on a limb to do something genuinely different in an industry not known for taking risks. While Scion didn’t achieve the success Toyota had hoped for, their irreverent spirit lives on. The next time you see a boxy XB rolling down the road or a tC with massive rims and a loud exhaust, smile and nod to the little brand that could – and did, if only for a moment. Scion, you are gone but not forgotten.

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