Scion has confirmed that the iM concept subcompact hatchback they just revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show is slated to become a production vehicle and that a production version of the iM five-door compact hatchback will be shown at the New York Auto Show next spring.
Speculation is that the new Scion iM will come to dealerships in 2015 inferring that it will be a 2016 model year vehicle. Scion officials have told us that the model year is not determined as yet and that further information about the vehicle and its power train, technology, mechanical and feature specifications will not be made available until that time.
The iM Concept vehicle was built by Troy Sumitomo and Five Axis in Southern California. Sumitomo and Five Axis have a long history of working with Toyota and Lexus through heir Calty Design Research bureau on a number of concept vehicles including the Lexus IS F and the Toyota FT-HS Concept. For Scion, in particular, Five Axis built the original concept vehicles for the FR-S and iQ.
Scion tells us that the iM Concept shown shows us a hatchback that earns its name from characteristics aimed at its 18 – 34 year old audience. The “i” stands for individuality, intriguing and a good fit for customers’ income. The “M” stands for modern, multifaceted and magnetic.
According to Scion, the iM Concept communicates its sporty handling and racing inspiration through a wide stance and low ride height for a grounded appearance. It features front and rear bumper overhangs that create dynamic surfaces, as well as geometric grille inserts, deep air intakes and fog lights. Large 19-inch forged alloy wheels sit flush with the body while vented rotors with 4-piston front calipers work with the adjustable-height racing suspension.
They say that urban drivers can expect the iM Concept to meet the needs of city streets with excellent fuel efficiency, sporty handling and easy parking.
Pricing information will also be available next year, but Scion sources say that a price under $20,000 could or would make this car enticing to youthful customers (18-34 year old) who are the target market for the Scion brand.
Compact or Sub Compact – Corolla, Matrix, Auris or Yaris?
As the test brand for Toyota (and Lexus), Scion has sometimes led with new products specific to Scion and sometimes said to appear to borrow vehicle designs from Toyota. Blogosphere speculation has suggested several compact or sub- compact vehicles that the iM takes its cues or actual design from including the current Toyota Corolla, the old Toyota Matrix or the European Toyota Auris.
Scion sources, in conversation with us, have referred to the iM as a sub-compact hatchback and tell us that they are looking for it to compete with other hatchbacks like the Honda Fit which competes with the Toyota Yaris.
Based on what we see and hear, we see the iM as taking design elements from a variety of sources – keeping in mind the Five Axis relationship with Calty. We see cues from Lexus along with elements of the new 2015 Toyota Yaris which is a product of the Toyota European Design Bureau ED2.
Until told differently, we see the new iM as a Scion, crafted along the lines of the new Toyota Yaris that will compete in the very hot and growing compact or sub-compact hatchback segment – focused on that trendier 18-34 year-old age group which will certainly drive targeted features and amenities set in a vehicle tailored with edgier design cues.
Energizing Scion – time is running out
The Scion brand, which launched in 2003 with tremendous hype and cutting edge styled products like the xB, xD and followed by the tC, has stalled and sort of wandered since 2006 when brand sales peaked at around 175,000 units. Since then, Scion and its parent, Toyota, have struggled to find the right mix of products to energize the customer base and get the brand moving again.
During that period, Scion introduced just two new vehicles – the FR-S sports car and the iQ mini- or city-car, that they hoped would energize the brand. The iQ has yet to gain much traction due, in part, to the mini- city-car segment not attracting significant attention in North America – at least for now. Its future remains uncertain. The FR-S, on the other hand has been met with critical acclaim and acceptance from consumers in their target market. But with only a single style and power plant available, FR-S sales have not accelerated beyond the initial enthusiasm.
Along the way, Scion has tried to spark sales with a limited production Monogram series of the FR-S, tC and iQ, a Scion 10th anniversary Scion 10 Series edition of each model and the continuing line of Release Series limited production editions of particular (tC, xB and xD) models – the latest being the Release 9.0 tC that will be available in early 2015. The injection of these special or limited edition models has had marginal results, at best.
In 2013, Toyota released their dealers from the requirement that they carry the Scion brand with the Toyota. Some saw that as the beginning of an official demise of the Scion brand. To the contrary, Scion officials positioned it as a strategy to give the brand a new and independent look with three new vehicles promised in the future to give the Scion brand new energy. Releasing dealerships from Scion was important to that effort in order to realign their dealer lineup to be able to put focus on that new energy and the new vehicles in markets where they would be successful
“The two models we’re debuting in New York next spring are just the beginning for Scion,” said Scion Vice President Doug Murtha. “We plan to bring three new products in three years to our showrooms, offering a variety of exciting options for current and new Scion customers.”
New vehicles to energize Scion
One of those new Scion vehicles that Murtha mentioned has been strongly believed to be an evolution of the FR-S Sports Car – upgrading the power plant and adding a roadster to the line. The FR-S (joint venture companion to the Subaru BRZ) had a strong following from its launch as a well-designed and nice performing sports coupe with a price under $30,000. Since that initial success, followers have been clamoring for more – particular a larger and turbocharged 2.5L power plant plus a roadster.
Feeling that a new and/or evolved FR-S is one of those vehicles promised by Scion executives last year, the blogosphere has been alive in recent months with posts and commentary about such additions for either or both the FR-S or BRZ in 2016.
With the announcement about the new subcompact iM production model to be debuted at the New York Auto Show in April, 2016 – we think that FR-S is the other likely to be debuted at that show.
As for that third vehicle – who knows for sure, but with the surge of demand in the compact and subcompact segments, it may well be yet another new vehicle or a major revision of an existing vehicle in one of these segments that makes its appearance following the new FR-S and the iM.
Whatever that third vehicle is, the real message from the iM going-into-production announcement by Scion is that any reports of their demise have been seriously exaggerated. We are looking forward to the promised introductions at the New York Auto Show to see how Scion plans to get back on track.
Simply, at the end of the day, the current tC, xB, iQ and xD plus some special editions can only hold Scion’s market presence for so long – and time is running out.
We will keep you posted on developments with the Scion brand, the iM and the FR-S as they occur.