Despite its success in the US with a new generation of so-called 'Generation Y' consumers, Toyota's Scion youth brand is not right for Europe right now, according to a senior Toyota adviser who helped set up the brand while working at the automaker's California headquarters.

Ex-Toyota Motor Sales US president Yoshimi Inaba told delegates at the IESE Business School's Automotive Sector conference in Barcelona that Toyota's market share in Europe is around 5% which compares with 16% in the US and 45% in Japan. The higher share markets are the ones that need 'a little stimulation' to create additional sales for Toyota, Mr Inaba said.

He acknowledged that conceptually Scion could work in Europe, but pointed out that there are practical obstacles to reproducing the Scion 'shop-in-shop' dealer distribution model in Europe. In the US, Scion cars are sold through a dedicated area in existing Toyota outlets.

"Dealer size in Europe is too small for shop-in-shop and it would cost too much to invest in a separate showroom," he said
Mr Inaba said that the Scion brand in the US had exceeded sales targets with 171,000 units sold last year.

The brand had been successful in taking Toyota to a new section of the market according to Mr Inaba, with the average age of a Scion buyer of just 29 years - almost 20 years younger than that of the average Toyota brand customer.

Toyota's Scion brand was first rolled out in 2003 in California with the xA model, aimed squarely at a rapidly emerging young demographic cohort in the US. Customisation of the vehicles - as a form of personal expression - is an important brand attribute, along with single spec and a non-traditional marketing approach (which includes a no-haggle and transparent 'pure price').

The boxy xB was soon added and the sporty tC coupe arrived later.

'Generation Y' refers to those born in the 1980-1994 period, following on from 'Generation X' (born 1965-1979) and post-war 'baby boomers' (born 1946-1964).

Inaba described how Toyota customers' median age in the US grew older as baby boomers aged, creating room for a new brand appealing to younger consumers.

In 2010 Generation Yers will represent 25% of the driving age population in the US, moving to 40% in 2020, while 142m people in the US are currently under the age of 35. Inaba said Gen Y'ers are highly educated and affluent, and will be reaching driving age at the rate of four million per year for the next 10 years.

"It was therefore seen as critical that we succeed with these young customers just as we did with their parents," Inaba said.

"The Toyota brand resonated with boomers, but it did not resonate with youth. It may have respected Toyota as a brand, but Gen Y simply does not want to drive the same brand as their mom and pop drive."

Dave Leggett