| DETROIT, Sept 5
DETROIT, Sept 5 Scion, Toyota Motor Corp's
sagging youth-oriented brand, will not be rejuvenated
by fresh models on its U.S. showroom floors anytime soon, a top
U.S. Toyota executive said on Thursday.
Bob Carter, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales USA,
said that while the company's main Toyota brand is rolling out
fresh products this year, the 1,000 U.S. Toyota dealers that
also handle Scion will have to wait longer.
"We have a very robust and very exciting product cadence
coming for Scion, however, it's further down the pipeline,"
Carter told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Scion sales through August were down 1.6 percent from a year
earlier. At this pace, this year's Scion sales will be only
about 40 percent of that of the brand's peak year in 2006.
Carter would not be specific on the timing of any new
product for Scion, saying only that nothing new was coming in
the next half year.
Carter last month told U.S. Toyota dealers they could drop
the Scion brand without penalty.
While some analysts said that signaled the beginning of the
end of the Scion brand at Toyota, Carter said that was not so.
"We are absolutely committed to the brand as our youth
strategy going into the future," Carter said.
Still, he admitted that Scion sales are sagging, and told
the dealers that with no new product coming soon, they could
without any repercussions devote the showroom space to
Toyota-branded products that they now use for Scion.
Carter said none of the company's dealers have said they
will drop Scion.
Toyota launched the Scion brand in 2003, and it is focused
on the North American market.
The age of Scion buyers is younger than for that of most
other brands sold in the United States. Carter says the average
age of a Scion buyer is 32, but Detroit-area research firm Polk,
now a part of IHS Automotive, said that average age is 49 years.
Tom Libbey of Polk said there are several ways to calculate
the age of car buyers. He said Polk tallies from official
vehicle registration data. Often, he said, the primary driver of
a car may be younger than the person, such as a parent, who
registers the vehicle.
Scion U.S. sales were 73,505 last year, and its 2013 sales
through August were a modest 48,959, which is on pace for less
than 70,000 this year. Its peak year for U.S. sales was 2006, at
173,034, when the brand had only three models to sell.
Through August, Scion accounted for only 0.3 percent of
Toyota's 1.53 million in U.S. sales, while the premium Lexus
brand accounted for 11.1 percent and the Toyota brand 88.9
Scion has five models. The best-selling one so far in 2013
has been the new FR-S sports coupe, which at 13,537 sold in the
U.S. market is just slightly more than the tC sedan.
The boxy hatchback compact xB is next at 12,740 in U.S.
sales through August, followed by the xD hatchback subcompact at
6,257 sold and the iQ minicar has sold only 3,078 this year.
Carter said he's confident that Scion sales will rebound.
"It's just going to take us a little longer to see the
growth," he said.
While Carter would not talk specifically about future
product, IHS Automotive has said that it expects an FR-S
convertible to join the lineup next year, followed by a new xB
in 2016 and a compact crossover in 2017.
One of the main reasons Toyota dealers are hanging on to the
Scion franchise is that nearly 75 percent of Scion customers are
first-time buyers, said Carter, and when they buy a second
vehicle, they stay with Scion or move up to Toyota or Lexus.