DETROIT – Although they would seem a natural fit with Scion’s more environmentally conscious customers, hybrid-electric vehicles are too expensive for the brand’s young buyers, a top executive says.

“Youth seem to be very, very cognizant of their environment and the footprint they’re leaving,” Jack Hollis, vice president-Scion, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. tells Ward’s here in an interview.

But the hefty price premium charged for hybrids, even after a decade on the market, makes Toyota the better brand for HEVs.

“We really still feel (hybrids) fit into the Toyota lineup better than the Scion lineup, from a pricing structure,” he says.

Scion aims to keep base prices below the $20,000 mark for its models. Even more expensive, limited-edition “Release Series” Scions typically start below that mark.

Hollis dismisses the notion the Toyota FT-Ch hybrid concept shown at the recent North American International Auto Show here could be a Scion.

Toyota officials hinted the car is a go for production and possibly could be part of an expanded Prius lineup.

“I don’t know what they’re working on (for) the pricing of that,” Hollis says. “We just know it fits into that Prius family. Scion would want to have a totally differentiating hybrid, and we don’t have that ready yet.”

The FT-Ch is aimed more at “mainstream” buyers, he says, not the “non-traditional” customers Scion is after. “Scion was created for us to start targeting not just youth but that unique mindset, more of a trendsetter.”

Longer term Scion will have hybrids, Hollis says, noting the brand continues to study the right application for the technology.

While HEVs might be too big of a financial hit to take for Scion’s owner base at the moment, featuring all-wheel-drive vehicles are not.

Former Scion chief Mark Templin told Ward’s in 2007 he was interested in employing AWD technology from partner Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.

Hollis agrees, saying even with AWD, Scion prices could remain below the $20,000 threshold. “I don’t think it ups the cost past what the consumer would pay,” he says.

Toyota’s collaboration with Subaru-maker Fuji, in which it holds a 16.5% stake, has “just begun” and holds a lot of untapped potential, Hollis says.

“Ultimately, it’s a prioritization of all our resources,” he says. “Scion (is an) innovation laboratory and a chance to try new things. We’re really open (to AWD).”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com