DETROIT -- Toyota expects its redesigned Scion tC coupe to double sales and breathe new life into the struggling youth-focused brand, Scion's vice president said today.
Scion expects to sell 35,000 to 45,000 of the more-powerful coupes in 2011, vice president Jack Hollis said during a media briefing at Oakland University in suburban Detroit. Scion sold 18,000 tCs in 2009, down 56 percent from the year before, after peaking at 79,125 in 2006.
Hollis' latest forecast is lower than a 40,000 to 50,000 estimate he gave in March, Bloomberg News reported today.
There's much riding on the rollout of the redesigned tC, which will arrive in showrooms Oct. 1. The tC has accounted for about 41 percent of Scion's overall sales since its launch six years ago. Sales of the coupe have continued falling this year, down 36 percent through August, to 8,848 vehicles.
Hollis said the slide is typical for a sporty subcompact car late in its product life cycle. He also blamed unemployment among the tC's core demographic -- median age is 26 -- that is nearly double the 9.6 percent national average.
“I think we're kind of timed right for this, where hopefully the unemployment rate will turn here at the beginning of the year,” he said.
The second-generation Scion tC coupe, first unveiled at the New York auto show in April, gets a 2.5-liter engine that will add 19 hp from the previous version. Zero-to-60 times for the six-speed manual transmission (7.6 seconds) and six-speed automatic (8.3) will be about a second faster.
Scion also widened the tC's track and lowered its floor for better handling and added brake assist, vehicle stability control and other safety features. The tC's starting prices of $18,995 for the manual and $19,995 for the automatic, including shipping, are nearly $1,200 higher than those of the outgoing model.
Hollis said he believes the 2011 tC can capitalize on a relative dearth of fresh competition in the market for entry-level coupes.
“We're moving into a sport subcompact segment where you really haven't had a new entry in a couple years,” he said. He cited the Kia Forte, which debuted this year, as the redesigned tC's closest competitor.
Scion is backing the launch with the biggest marketing campaign in its history, featuring TV commercials -- including spots on ESPN's “Monday Night Football” -- as well as street-level marketing that has been a staple of the brand.
Scion dealers are hopeful the 2011 tClives up to the hype.
Alex Islas, sales manager at Precision Scion of Tucson, Ariz., said tC sales are down more than 50 percent in the last 18 months, a plunge he blames on a lack of marketing and a perceived staleness of the product.
“It has kind of became the stepchild. It just sits there,” Islas said. “But there's a considerable amount of excitement for this remodel.”
Billy Rinker, general sales manager at Toyota Santa Monica near Los Angeles, said he likes what he's seen of the new version.
“We think performance and designwise, it's excellent. We couldn't be more excited,” he said.
Liz Halabu, a 19-year-old college sophomore who wandered by as Hollis was showing off eight gleaming 2011 tCs, was disappointed. She recently bought a 2010 model.
“Now I'm mad,” said Halabu, whose family owns four tCs. “If I had known this was coming out, I would have waited.”