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Toyota Discontinues Youth-Oriented Scion Brand


Saturn, Geo, Pontiac and now Scion, too - all of these are names in the automotive graveyard. Toyota announced today it's discontinuing the Scion brand. The brand's small cars and unique marketing were aimed at younger buyers, as NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Back in the day - only 13 years ago - Eric Lyman bought a scion. Now, he's a car industry analyst with truecar.com, but back then he was a kid - just 26.

ERIC LYMAN: I was the target demographic, and I liked the manual version because it allowed me to scoot around the crowded streets of Los Angeles, where I was living at the time, in a very efficient manner.

GLINTON: And them, you know, life caught up with Lyman. His wife got pregnant, and car seats had to happen.

LYMAN: And we realized that if we put that baby seat in the back seat, we no longer had room for two other adults. Essentially, we outgrew the brand.

GLINTON: OK, that's a problem if you're a car brand. Scion was founded for the American audience to help Toyota attract younger buyers. At the time, it was Generation X. Here's Toyota's Bob Carter.

BOB CARTER: They had a completely different mindset when it came to mainstream brands, particularly the mainstream brands that the baby boomer generation supported.

GLINTON: Carter says that, like many things, changed with millennials.

CARTER: So when we talk to those millennials today, they have a completely different view of mainstream brands and Toyota as the Generation X did.

GLINTON: When it started out, Scion was supposed to do everything different - no-haggle price, not a lot of options, viral marketing. Well, as the brand was getting going, the economy collapsed, and Toyota didn't have the money to spend on Scion, and neither did consumers. But Eric Lyman with TrueCar says it was low gas prices that dealt the final blow.

LYMAN: So the small cars that they focused on have dropped out of favor. And instead, we're seeing buyers gravitate towards what we call the subcompact utility segment, which has exploded in popularity.

GLINTON: Scion cars will become Toyotas, and no production will be cut or people laid off. The question for Toyota in 2016 - will young people buy Toyotas? Or even better, will they buy cars at all? Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.