LOS ANGELES -- Scion is finally crossing over.
Toyota's youth-oriented brand used the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show last week to introduce the C-HR concept, a subcompact crossover that previews the production version set to debut in 2016.
The C-HR, shown at earlier global auto shows wearing a Toyota badge, is a play for young, urban buyers. The edgy crossover is Scion's long-promised third new model, after the iA and iM small cars that went on sale in September.
When the C-HR goes on sale in early 2017, it will tap into the global thirst for all things crossover.
"I think the timing is perfect for this vehicle," Andrew Gilleland, Scion vice president, said in an interview before the L.A. show. "We think there's significant volume in this segment going forward."
Industry expectations back him up.
Research firm AutoPacific estimates that the U.S. subcompact cross-over segment will more than quadruple from 112,500 vehicles in 2014 to 472,800 in 2019. So despite a flood of new entries in the segment -- Honda's HR-V, Mazda's CX-3, Chevy's Trax, Fiat's 500X and Jeep's Renegade among them -- there is space for Scion.
"This sort of product is consistent with what the Scion brand stands for," said Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific. "It's edgy and youthful and so doing a small sporty crossover is a really good fit for a brand that's trying to get itself out of the doldrums and rebuild."
Scarce resources from parent Toyota led to a dearth of new products and declining sales for Scion every year since 2012. This year through October, the brand's sales are down another 9.6 percent.
But Scion is finding its footing again. In September, the brand began selling the new iA subcompact sedan -- built by Mazda in Mexico -- and the iM subcompact hatchback -- sold globally as the Toyota Auris. Scion, which has backed the new models with an irreverent TV ad campaign that has found a strong social media following, hopes these new models will help lift it to around 80,000 U.S. sales in 2016, Gilleland said.
By the end of 2017, Scion wants to hit 100,000 U.S. sales, a goal that should be within reach as the C-HR becomes the brand's highest-volume player, according to AutoPacific's forecasts.
Details on what's under the C-HR's shapely skin are scarce. It will be only the second vehicle to use Toyota's new platform, dubbed Toyota New Global Architecture, after the new Prius. While the Toyota C-HR shown in September at the Frankfurt auto show was a hybrid, Scion's U.S. model will likely use a gasoline engine as the base offering.
The aggressive, style-over-utility design is a move to lure young, urban buyers, as Toyota and Scion eye the success Nissan has had globally with its funky Juke crossover.
The C-HR's pricing won't be announced until the production version goes on sale. But the sticker will be less than $25,000 to keep in line with Scion's goal of being a gateway to Toyota, Gilleland said.
"We think this is really going to help build our volumes and continue that trend of bringing people back to the Toyota Division," Gilleland said. "And that's not only for us but also the dealers; so much of our success is going to be centered around retaining these customers."