HOLLYWOOD, CA – Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s Scion brand is calling for 60,000 unit sales of its redesigned xB model next year, a company official says at a media event here.

Last year, Scion sold 61,306 xB’s in the U.S., up 13.5% from 2005, according to Ward’s data.

Toyota’s youth brand also wants to sell 40,000 new subcompact xD models. The car replaces the xA as the B-segment entry in Scion’s U.S. lineup, says Natae Rayner, senior product education administrator-University of Toyota.

That’s above 2006 xA sales of 32,603 units.

Pegged to be the volume model when the brand launched in 2003, the xB consistently has placed second to Scion’s tC sports coupe, which last year sold 79,125 units. This year, Scion expects to sell 42,500 xBs and 12,500 xDs.

The xB goes on sale this week at U.S. Scion dealers, with the xD, hitting showrooms in August.

As Scion Vice President Mark Templin told Ward’s in February when the two new models debuted at the Chicago auto show, Scion will be running no TV advertising to launch xB and xD. The intent is to avoid alienating the brand’s desired young, hip demographic.

“We know young adults would rather discover products on their own terms,” Templin says. “Word of mouth and the Internet are key elements in their discovery process.”

Scion’s target customers number just 10% of the 142 million Americans under-35, he adds.

Scion continues to participate in art and music events, for instance, but lately has been involved heavily in online virtual communities, such as Second Life and Whyville. The latter is a website aimed at “’tweens,” those between childhood and adolescence.

The brand also has created a website to pre-launch the xB. Its “Want2Bsquare” theme is carried over in a viral campaign that features street team giveaways and a commercial shown exclusively in movie theaters.

The commercial depicts a mad-scientist surgeon altering patients’ heads into box shapes.

Visitors to the website, which bears no reference to xB and instead directs visitors to Scion.com to learn about the car, can earn points to redeem prizes.

“We were surprised to learn that in the campaign’s second week, a registered visitor had enough points to redeem the Pioneer plasma TV,” Templin says, adding a prize such as the television set requires accumulating 600,000 points – a feat that would take numerous hours.

“We’ve found some users are spending more than 20 hours on the site, and traditional media just doesn’t offer that kind of engagement.”

Templin says “something similar” will be done to launch the xD, but he does not offer details.

Both the xB and xD ride on larger platforms than the first-generation xB and xA. Neither share platforms or engines with the Japanese market Toyota bB and Ist, which supported the first xB and xA, respectively.

Templin says he isn’t concerned that the obvious lack of “Japanese-ness” will impact reception of the ’08 xB and xD here in the U.S.

“We think there still is (a Japanese feel to the vehicles),” Templin says. “You’ll see where the influence impacts these cars (when you drive them).”

Templin adds Scion will be working closely with Toyota Motor Corp. in Japan on accessories that will be shared between the Scion models and their similar Toyota cousins.

The xB rides on an all-new platform similar to the Toyota Auris in Europe, says the ’08 xB’s chief engineer, Hiroya Fujita, while the xD is based on the Toyota Yaris chassis and is closer in size to the old xB.

The bB in Japan is underpinned by a Daihatsu Motor Co. Ltd. Templin says a Japanese-market Toyota vehicle that will share the xB’s new platform, but not its name, is planned.

Scion has been successful in its attempts to funnel its customers into the Toyota brand, Templin says, citing J.D. Power & Associates research showing eight of the top 10 vehicles bought to replace Scions are in the Toyota family. The midsize Camry sedan is the most popular replacement model.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com