Jim Farley: "You had better have premium details in your vehicle if you want it to be distinctive at $16,000."
Automotive News Staff Reporter Mark Rechtin spoke with Scion Vice President Jim Farley about the next step for Scion, the brand that has grabbed the attention of Generation Y.
Is the t2B the replacement for the xB?
If we wanted to, we could make this. We have a lot of expensive ideas in there. So the question is how we make sure it is affordable at $15,000 or $16,000.
The million-dollar question is which ideas to pick. There's a permanent glass roof, scrolling ticker system (for stock quotes) and a lounge-seating idea where occupants rest against shaped door panels instead of rotating the seat.
But one reason we sold the xB was because of its compact overall length. It's small outside but big inside. So, if you make the t2B big outside, do you lose that surprise when you get inside?
We are going to do lots of clinics. It doesn't necessarily mean we'll get a positive response to the idea of bigger is better.
What about the hatchback version?
Look at the Mazda3; look at the Nissan concept coupe. Generation Y has a shift, compared to older buyers, when it comes to silhouette and body type. They would rather buy a premium small car than a bigger mainstream car. If that's the case, that will change everything in our industry on the car side. Maybe having a hatchback is a positive.
Will Scion ever have more than three products at once?
It's not just the number of vehicles in our lineup but the raw volume and the concepts we sell. We didn't know what would happen with Scion. A lot of people bought a Scion because no one else had something like it.
Is there a magic volume where we are no longer distinctive no matter what the products are? If we are too mainstream, we can't be true to what we've become.
Now that we're creating our second-generation products, we have the chance of totally redoing the recipe. With at least one vehicle, we will start fresh - go through the mental discipline of throwing it out and starting over again. We have to do it. We can't squander our learning. We have to do something that's risky. Not being distinctive is the worst sin.
So how does Scion stay distinctive?
You had better have premium details in your vehicle if you want it to be distinctive at $16,000. You have to think about how you would create a luxury brand at that price point. Things like dampered movements of interior components, soft-touch plastics, lots of standard electronics. Small can be beautiful in package size. We are frightened about the package getting too big.
Should Scion sell a sporty car, something with performance beyond the tC?
We could do sporty, a pure Lotus Elise sort of thing. But I don't see that in the cards. The price is high. The cost of insurance is high. How many young people can get into that? The reason the MR Spyder failed is that no young people drive convertibles. I wouldn't want to squander a product slot on a sports car.
Might Scion customers skip Toyota with their next car and go straight to Lexus?
We just did a survey of tC owners, asking them what they want their next car to be, and BMW and Lexus were one-two.
We don't see it as much on the xB or xA. The xB customer is more about functionality. But we do see a move toward small but upscale. It has happened in beverage, clothing and electronics, where you see luxury goods at an affordable price. But it has to be executed right. If Mini and Nissan and Audi and BMW have products in that zone, it's going to be exciting.
You may e-mail Mark Rechtin at [email protected]