YOUNTVILLE, CA â€“Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.â€™s Scion brand will stage the unveiling of a concept car at Aprilâ€™s New York auto show that hints at a fourth production model.
â€śIt will be a concept of a vehicle that will fit into the line, not a replacement of an existing vehicle,â€ť Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager-Div., tells Wardâ€™s here during a Toyota Prius media event.
A fourth model long has been discussed for the brandâ€™s lineup, which now consists of the xD subcompact, boxy xB cross/utility vehicle and tC sport coupe.
While Scion sales started out strong after the youth brandâ€™s 2004 national rollout, they have slowed over the last several years. The tC has aged and product cadence has became an issue. The â€™06 xB and xA were extended until the debut of the second-generation â€™08 xB and new xD in mid-2007.
The xD took the place of the xA as the subcompact in Scionâ€™s lineup, although former Scion head Mark Templin, now general manager for the Lexus Div., told Wardâ€™s in 2007 he wanted to see a return of the xA nameplate.
Reports last year suggested the Toyota iQ subcompact from Europe could fill that void, arriving in the U.S. as a Scion.
While Carter is mum on details of the New York concept car, he emphasizes the vehicle will not be the next-generation tC sport coupe, which eventually will be replaced. The tC debuted in 2004 as an â€™05 model.
The coupe quickly became Scionâ€™s best-selling model, but after suffering a 38.5% volume loss was eclipsed by the xB in 2008, which delivered 45,220 units compared with the tCâ€™s 40,980, Wardâ€™s data show.
Trying to keep the excitement and sales momentum going for coupes has proven problematic for most auto makers, Toyota included.
â€śYou sell the heck out of them for 16-18 months, and then you buckle down for quite a while,â€ť Carter says, adding the coupe segment in the U.S. now is a â€śshadowâ€ť of its former self in light of the recession.
â€śWhatâ€™s the 2-door coupe of the future? It may not be a 2-door coupe,â€ť he says.
Although Carter is enamored with the notion of a â€śsporty, emotionalâ€ť car in the $30,000-range for the Toyota brand, he also knows money for product development is tight and there are other priorities, such as the Prius.
Toyota has put production of its 2-door Camry Solara convertible on hold due to bloated inventories, and a project to develop a coupe withHeavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru, has yet to be â€śgreen-lighted,â€ť Carter says.
Toyota holds a 16.5% stake inHeavy, which had said it wanted to build the jointly developed rear-wheel-drive car powered by Subaruâ€™s boxer engine at a new plant in Ohta, Gumma prefecture, Japan.
However, Toyota recently announced it was cancelling its involvement in the plantâ€™s construction. The model now is to be built in an existing FHI facility, a Subaru of America Inc. spokesman says.