Toyota Motor Sales USA (TMS) officially launched its new Scion brand at this week's New York International auto show, showing off two concept vehicles, the bbX and ccX, which, it said, "offer a strong hint of the direction Scion will take with its new line of products".

The range launches in June 2003 with two vehicles. One model will be an adaptation of the bbX which is based on a vehicle currently available in Japan called the Black Box that is marketed to Japan's youngest buyers as a "melding of entertainment-art and basic transportation".

Each of the two Scion models available from launch will include standard air conditioning, power windows, door locks and mirrors, six-speaker Pioneer AM/FM/CD audio system, sport seats, and various comfort and convenience features. Though hardly stripped-out entry-level models, both will be priced under $US18,000.

The US brand roll-out will be progressive. Due to limited volumes and, as TMS puts it, "the start-up logistics of regional inventory pooling", Scion will launch in California only for the first eight months.

After that, dealerships in the Gulf States, Southeast, Central Atlantic, and Northeast regions will be phased in. Within 12 months of the initial launch, the brand will be available nationwide and this national availability will coincide with the launch of a third vehicle line.

Production volume for the first three vehicles will be approximately 100,000 units a year.

TMS will keep the Scion product line-up simple by offering all models as single, fully-equipped, one-specification models.

"For some time, Toyota's genesis group has been carefully listening to, and studying ways, to connect with the net-generation reaching driving age and entering the car market," said TMS executive vice president and COO Jim Press.
"It's an important emerging consumer group that will total over 60 million potential customers by 2010. With Scion, Toyota is taking a major pro-active step to reach out and connect with them."

The Scion name (pronounced SY-en) name, meaning descendant or heir, is intended to stand alone as a distinctive new line of products and a new way of doing business yet is also meant to convey a clear link to the Toyota brand heritage, Press said.

"Toyota's formation of genesis in 1998 marked the beginning of a quest to connect with an emerging new buyer group in the marketplace," said the TMS vice president of Scion, Jim Lentz.

"Scion will act as a complement to the Toyota-brand banner by targeting an important portion of this consumer group who actively seek out the newest trends in style and innovation."

"Scion will target consumers who are well aware of, and may even covet, Toyota's strong heritage of quality," added Lentz. "But they are also consumers who require unique product concepts that are high in personal expression that can be accessed and purchased on their own terms.

"Although this group represents only a slice of the net-gen as a whole, its influence is substantial and therefore, extremely important. So important, that we have dedicated an all-new line of products and services that will not only attract them, but will retain them."

TMS claims that the Scion way of doing business will be defined by a philosophy that combines three essentials; style, versatility, and surprise. These three elements will be fundamental, not only to the vehicles, but to the purchase process as well.
Scion outlets will be structured as a dealer-within-a-dealer with all Toyota dealers being offered the opportunity to sell the line though the vehicles will have to be displayed in a clearly dedicated environment with its own dedicated sales staff, though on-site service facilities will be shared with the Toyota models.

As just-auto reported yesterday, on-site inventories will be small with dealers drawing from a shared inventory pool designed to ensure low-overhead costs and encourage just-in-time delivery on a regional basis.

The Scion dealer environment will be low-key and buyer-friendly with stylish décor and a polished industrial feel. It will also include what Toyota calls "highly interactive surroundings aimed at individualising and personalising the shopping and purchase process".

Toyota appears to be modelling its Scion sales tactics on Saturn's, promising a "truly customer-controlled atmosphere" at dealers where shoppers can "browse, investigate, research, or just discover Scion, entirely at their own pace. Sales people will offer assistance and guidance [but] their role will be clearly defined as just one of the many resources available during the shopping and purchase process".

TMS said the internet will also be an important tool in this process.

"The Scion website will be highly interactive, targeted and constantly evolving. It will invite the user to stay and explore, rewarding those who take the time to experiment with surprising discoveries. Equally important, the internet will act as a two-way conduit between buyer and seller. It will be designed as an important listening post, where customer feedback and suggestions will be closely monitored," the company said in a statement.