DETROIT -- Scion's future lineup likely will have a stronger U.S. influence as it prepares to bring two new products to this country.
Today only one of Scion's three U.S. vehicles was designed and engineered in the United States.
“Scion is pretty much a North American brand, so that is why it is very natural to think more development, more design work, should be done in North America,” said Yoshi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America Inc.
“We all recognize the importance of Scion. It should be more locally developed. ‘Influenced' — that is a better word,” Inaba added during an interview Tuesday at the Detroit auto show.
Inaba returned as president of Toyota Motor North America last summer after running Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. from 1999 to 2003. He retired from the automaker in 2007 but was brought back as part of the management team installed by Toyota Motor Corp.'s new CEO, Akio Toyoda, to revive the company.
The Scion spirit
At a meeting with reporters last summer in Detroit, Inaba said: “One of my jobs is to revive the Scion spirit in the United States.” He is credited with helping create the Scion brand.
Last year Scion sold 57,961 vehicles in the United States, down 49 percent from the previous year.
Later Tuesday, Inaba acknowledged Toyota has ignored its Scion brand the past two years. But he said at the Automotive News World Congress that Scion will get two new products this year “that will rejuvenate the brand and bring additional younger buyers into the Toyota family.”
Of the three Scion models sold in the United States, only one, the tC, was styled and developed here. It is assembled in Japan. The other two models, the xB and xD, are Toyota models that were styled and developed for markets outside North America.
The tC was Scion's No. 2 seller last year with 17,998 vehicles, down 56 percent.
Inaba said the automaker has not determined what models will be added to the Scion product line. The redesigned tC coupe and the three-passenger iQ will go on sale this year. The new tC was also styled and engineered for the North American market. But both of those vehicles were approved for production before Inaba rejoined Toyota.
The iQ will be the fourth model in the Scion line.
What customers want
“We will figure out what we need. We need to focus on more products based on the customer's needs, what the customer wants,” he said.
He said that the intent of portraying Scion as a youth brand will continue.
“The important thing is to try and appeal to a younger segment. The role of Scion is to grow them into Toyota or Lexus so that has not changed.”
To attract younger buyers, Inaba said the automaker is still trying to determine what technology they want in their vehicle. A timetable for introduction was not revealed.
“We have to be tuned to the needs of younger customers. Connectivity is a very important issue [and] our products should take car of their interests and their needs.”