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When Toyota introduced Scion to the American market in the early 2000s, it was easy to view the nascent brand as an appropriate channel through which it could reach a new demographic of customers. Scion, which in English translates to “descendant of” from an old French word with Germanic roots, was a brand designed to target younger car buyers by means of progressive, youth-centric marketing and transparent pricing to appeal to a forward-thinking, fast-evolving 20’s crowd.

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Business quickly took off with yearly sales reaching 173,034 vehicles in 2006, which represented a market share of 2.6 percent; however, the brand has since seen demand wane due to a stale product lineup and a lack of investment from parent brand, Toyota. Through the unintended acceleration scandal and economic downturn, Scion became a low priority for the automaker, but even as both Toyota’s reputation and the industry have rebounded, Scion has remained largely forgotten. Since Scion’s arrival, the automotive landscape and marketplace have both changed significantly, with new competition having emerged and a customer base that has evolved, and now questions are emerging within Toyota as to what the best direction is for Scion going forward.

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One of the issues Scion must overcome is its small footprint in the auto industry, as it has never offered more than five different models at any point in its history. The brand’s record sales year of 2006 was achieved with only three models in its lineup, of which one of them, the xA, has since been discontinued. Additionally, the only product over the past few years that can be argued is a success, either critically or sales-wise, is the FR-S sports car and even that model appears to be hitting speed bumps.

In 2013, as sales remained well below the reported 100,000 unit volume per year needed for the brand to remain viable, Toyota began granting dealers the option to drop their Scion franchises without penalty, which was highlighted in a piece published by Forbes. At the time, over 81 percent of Toyota’s dealer network also ran a Scion franchise, a number far greater than necessary to support the brand’s annual sales volume. However, an incentive for dealers to stay on board with Scion was the promise of a potential convertible derivative of the FR-S, of which a concept was driven onstage at Toyota’s national dealer meeting in Atlanta last year. Unfortunately, that plan appears to have been squashed. In an interview with WardsAuto at last month’s Los Angeles Auto Show, Scion’s senior vice president, Doug Murtha, conceded that a business case for both convertible and turbo variants of the FR-S failed to pass.

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While Scion has been stagnant for the past several years, other rising automakers have been keen on stealing the Japanese automaker’s market share. Kia has found massive success at the expense of Toyota, with the Korean brand’s Soul compact MPV becoming a star within its segment, one in which was previously led by the Scion xB. Now with Scion foregoing the opportunity to build an FR-S convertible, Mazda is primed and ready to deliver with its 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5, a stylish roadster fitted with the company’s SkyActiv technologies and an improved power-to-weight ratio.

Despite all of Scion’s issues, there is evidence that suggests the company is thinking outside the box in an effort to provide value to its customers. Recently, the brand began operating a pilot program called Scion Swap in San Francisco, Phoenix, Miami and Houston that would offer customers the ability to swap their Scion model at one of 50 participating dealerships for a Toyota vehicle, atr up to 10 days per year. The logic behind the program is this:  a prospective customer can have peace of mind when purchasing a Scion, knowing they have access to a larger vehicle ― like a truck or van ― should the need arise. While such marketing programs have the potential to make gains on the customer experience front, Toyota knows the future of its fledgling brand is hinged on the direction of its product lineup.

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One thing that cannot be ignored, however, is how disassociated Scion has become from its Toyota and Lexus siblings both in terms of perception as well as quality. Considering how neglected Scion’s lineup has been and how little money has been invested in its products, it is not surprising to see the brand rank fourth-worst in J.D. Power’s 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study as other makes have been more attentive to customer’s demands. Nevertheless, from a reliability standpoint one would expect Scion to perform similarly to Toyota and Lexus, however, according to J.D. Power’s 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, it is seen that expectation and reality are not one and the same. While Lexus and Toyota rank first and eighth, respectively, Scion came in 22nd with 153 problems per 100 vehicles versus an industry average of 133 problems. Thus, no matter what path Scion chooses to take, it is clear that it is imperative the company take action to raise the brand’s reputation closer to its siblings in terms of quality.

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With Scion currently at a critical stage where it’s either do or die, Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz suggested that it may be time for the brand to enter the realm of small-premium in a recent interview with WardsAuto. With regards to the product strategy, Lentz explains, “I think that (the) Toyota channel, itself, with vehicles like Yaris and other small, B-platform cars, can handle the lower end of the market. I think that C-platform premium small cars are probably the best place for Scion to be.” As luxury brand Lexus is apparently intent on maintaining a price floor above $30,000, it appears the door is open for Scion to stretch its portfolio from small and affordable models to nicer, medium-sized vehicles. With Scion currently reviewing plans for 2017-2025 model year offerings, a few different avenues may potentially be on the table, but the company can ill-afford to drop the ball this time. When the FR-S finally made it to market, it was viewed as a lifeline for a brand that looked lost; however, with brand supporters losing patience, Toyota needs to make sure it does not squander whatever goodwill Scion has left.