The Scion Experience: 2014 & Beyond
Scion doesn’t have a long, rich or storied history (having been launched just over 10 years ago). Nor does it have multi-generational consumers, strong name recognition (some people still call it ‘Sky-on’) or a product lineup that’s typically discussed in detail over dinner at Morton’s (all MSRPs start below $26k). But considering the overwhelming success of the brand, none of that seems to matter.
Scion was originally created by Toyota as an experimental product line to draw Generation Y consumers into the North American sales funnel. The thought was that the folks they attracted at an early age would later enroll at Toyota College and graduate from Lexus University. And by using a fresh sales approach, innovative marketing techniques and consistent focus, Scion has capitalized on that approach and blossomed into an automotive brand more than able to stand on its own.
Considering that the company saw its first sales in 2003, its huge following of enthusiasts and brand loyalists is quite a remarkable coup. Whereas the average light vehicle buyer in the US is 54, the average age of a Scion purchaser is 37, with the owner population 75% new to Toyota. Mission Accomplished.
In order to reach out to auto journalists, industry reps and tastemakers on the occasion of its Ten Year Anniversary, Scion invited a number of us to the W Hollywood in Los Angeles for an intense two days of presentations, breakout sessions, driving opportunities and fine dining with Scion and Toyota representatives.
The first night began with a buffet style dinner in the W Hollywood courtyard where the new 2014 Scion tC and the Scion FR-S Steve Aoki Art Car were both present and accounted for. We ate and drank like kings while networking with reps from diverse segments of the publishing industry. Shout-outs to the great guys at Super Street, Import Tuner, Rides and Nylon Mag with whom I had the pleasure of hanging out that first night.
The next day began bright and early with a breakfast of waffles, bacon and lots of green tea followed by an introductory presentation and breakout sessions. The first session addressed the Company’s brand history and sales strategy.
The biggest takeaways were Scion’s Pure Price (what you see is what you get) purchase experience and their Monospec Philosophy, whereby the company offers a high level of standard equipment with a limited number of choices and options, such as transmission and color, in order to simplify the sales process.
One new standard for 2014 is the audio system which is touch screen, a first for a non-luxury brand. For those looking to step up their sound system, the Scion Bespoke Premium Audio system featuring aha radio (when connected to a compatible Smartphone) is available for a mere $1,200. Also, Scion is offering its Service Boost program to all new buyers, providing complimentary maintenance for 2 years/25,000 miles, whichever comes first, along with 24 hour roadside assistance.
After sitting through the Product breakout session, here are my top 5 takeaways for each vehicle:
Scion FR-S – $25,255 MT/ $26,355 (AT)
-2.0L 4 cylinder engine with direct injection
-200hp and 151 lb-ft of torque with a curb weight of just 2,758 lbs (manual) 2,806 lbs (auto)
-VSC and TRAC can be disabled
-Torsen limited slip differential as well as front and rear ventilated disc brakes
-2013 IIHS Top Safety Pick
Scion iQ – $16,420
-1.3L 4 cylinder engine with 94hp and 89 lb-ft of torque
-Comes standard with remote keyless entry, Bluetooth, HD radio and a 6 speaker 160 watt system with a 6.1 inch touchscreen display
-One of the world’s smallest 4 seaters just over 10 feet in length
-NHTSA 4 star safety rating with 11 airbags including the world’s first rear-window airbag
-EPS rated at 36/37/37 MPG
Scion tC – $19,965 (MT) $20,965 (AT)
-2.5L 4 cylinder engine with 179hp and 172 lb-ft of torque
-Artificial intelligence transmission ECU learns driving habits
-2013 IIHS Top Safety Pick with NHTSA overall 5 star safety rating
-EPS rated at 23/31/26
Scion xD – $16,500 (MT) $17,300 (AT)
-1.8L 4 cyclinder engine with 128hp and 125 lb-ft of torque
-Curb weight of just 2,620 lbs manual/2,665 lbs automatic
-2013 IIHS Top Safety pick with 8 airbags
-EPS rated at 27/33/29
-Side view mirror mounted signals and rear seats that slide forward and recline
Scion xB – $17,555 (MT) $18505 (AT)
-2.4L 4 cylinder engine with 158hp and 162 lb-ft of torque
-EPA rated at 22/28/24
-2013 IIHS Top Safety Pick with 6 airbags
-FWD 5-speed manual/4-speed automatic with shift logic
-Curb weight of just 3,027 lbs manual 3,084 lbs automatic
Audio & Accessories
As previously mentioned, Scions are packaged in a straightforward manner to simplify the decision-making process for the consumer. But the company offers a vast array of genuine accessories for personalization. In fact, Scion offers 164 accessories spread over the 5 cars in their lineup. Accessories include not only styling pieces such as spoilers, body protectors and auto-dimming mirrors but also TRD (Toyota Racing Development) engineered performance accessories including exhaust systems, brakes, suspension upgrades, wheels, and limited slip differentials.
In addition, Scion’s Optomize program includes parts and accessories from other aftermarket companies such as FIVE:AD and Beat-Sonic to further customize your vehicle. Overall, Scions are actually some of the most personalized and customized vehicles you see on the road today.
The most interesting aspect of the Scion brand has to be its lifestyle initiatives, which have been the central guidepost of the company since its inception. Scion has sought out young, independent thinkers in the places where they consume media: Scion Audio Visual (AV) has contributed over $100 million in marketing dollars to the arts community, interfacing with over 2,000 innovators and creators to disseminate its brand message in the film, music, fashion and art worlds.
Scion AV events have been held at over 750 US venues with 10,000+ events taking place in more than 500 cities. They have also worked with over 1,500 small businesses, record labels, galleries, printers and independent publications. Currently, they are involved in more than 10 genres of music; they still have never worked with any major labels, which contributes significantly to the appeal of their viral and guerilla marketing approach. The Company looks to partner with up-and-comers or independent operators which have a strong following, a like-minded approach and the determination to stay true to their craft given support from Scion.
On the Road…
After the breakout sessions, it was time to hit the road. My partner in crime and I grabbed a 2014 Scion tC and headed up to the Griffith Observatory for the first run of the day. The new tC has a host of evolutionary changes that have created a welcome mid-cycle refresh. The Scion FR-S provided a much needed jolt of excitement and performance to the brand and it appears that some of that chutzpah has carried over to the styling and performance of the new tC.
The revised front and rear fascias are considerably more aggressive as are the edgier headlamps. The LED accent lights give the car a modern look with the new dark gray 18-inch wheels serving as a solid supporting cast. The 2014 now looks chiseled and athletic from all angles.
Inside, the 2014 tC feels more luxurious (okay, “nicer”) with upgraded materials, and the 6.1-inch touchscreen LCD audio system gives it some technical panache. The no-nonsense layout of all the buttons, knobs and switches is clean, inviting and user-friendly.
On the performance front, the new tC has taken yet another page out of the FR-S play book and offers a more aggressive 6-speed auto with Dynamic Rev matching to make sure the gear ratio transitions are optimized. In addition, shift times have been cut in half.
The reworked power steering system provides better feel, and rigidity has definitely improved thanks to new stabilizer bars and additional spot welds; the upgrades were readily apparent on the tight, winding roads leading up to Griffith.
Scion AV Gallery
After that jaunt, we all met up at the Scion AV gallery and retail space on Melrose for lunch and to hear a bit more about the Company’s lifestyle activities and the Scion AV Installation in particular. According to the company, the AV Installation “is a step in a more interactive direction for the retail gallery” while “the focus of the space is affordable artwork, and limited edition products.” The gallery plays host to a revolving collection of artists. Each show tends to last about 4 weeks and, in typical Scion fashion, all monies paid to the gallery for artwork are gifted back to the artist(s).
During our visit, we were able to get a glimpse of the upcoming “Hood By Air” show soon to be displayed in the gallery. The NY based fashion label will have its first pop-up retail installation on the West Coast in this space and will offer t-shirts, backpacks, water bottles, emory board and various accessories for sale. The show runs May 18th through June 16th.
We also got an opportunity to listen to Jeri Yoshizu, Scion manager of sales promotions, interview Levi Maestro, a young videographer with a strong pulse on street culture, discussing his experience working with Scion; their joint projects include the artist’s US tour in an xB for the documentary series Maestro Knows America as well as curating a soundtrack for Scion AV. It was interesting and enlightening to hear first hand from an artist who has reaped significant benefits from Scion’s active sponsorship of his creative pursuits.
Back at It
After eating bratwurst prepared on a Scion xB truck bed converted to a massive grill, we were back on the road, this time in the outstanding Scion FR-S, for a loop up and down Mulholland Drive. I won’t dwell on the FR-S here as we had an opportunity to spend a week with the car at another point and have a full road test review of that experience.
The final vehicle we drove was the diminutive Scion iQ, which proved perfect for shuffling around the congested streets of LA. Not only was the vehicle surprisingly roomy inside but was actually a blast to drive with its ridiculously tight turning radius just begging us to bust a u-turn at every intersection (legally, of course).
The Scion Experience was a wonderful opportunity for a solid and in-depth refresher on the Scion brand – past, present and future – and for a chance to really examine its vehicle lineup in a relaxed setting. Scion’s hospitality was first-rate, and their careful attention to detail was evident throughout. Best of all, the event gave me a renewed appreciation for the remarkably innovative marketing approach adopted by this very special and unique brand whose presence in the industry will, I hope, continue to grow and inspire.
Image Credit: Scion