DETROIT – Scion hopes to sell 1,000-2,000 of its diminutive ’12 iQ cars a month, a top company official says.

The wide range is due to the tiered U.S. launch of the microcar, on sale on the West Coast later this fall before fully rolling out to the East Coast and Midwest in the spring.

Plus, the car is being built only in Takaoka, Japan, and many Toyota suppliers still are not at full production following the country’s earthquake and tsunami in March, Jack Hollis, Scion vice president, tells media at a preview of the car here.

Toyota’s youth brand dubs its fourth model, starting under $16,000 including destination costs, a premium car that while physically small is large on innovation.

For instance, Hollis says the iQ boasts 11 airbags, including a world-first, rear-window airbag, thin seat backs to maximize interior volume, and standard Bluetooth and HD Radio.

Additionally, the 1.3L 4-cyl.-powered iQ achieves a combined 37 mpg (6.4 L/100 km). “It is our belief that will be the single best (combined mpg) in the industry for any non-hybrid vehicle,” he says.

The iQ, based on a European Toyota model with the same name, is aimed at Scion’s typical Generation Y demographic. Hollis expects iQ buyers to be trend-setting, not trend-following, and sophisticated.

Because of its small size and easy maneuverability, the iQ most likely will appeal to urban dwellers, where space is scarce.

If anything can sink iQ sales next year, it won’t be gas prices, which are at the same level now as when the car got the nod for production a year-and-a-half ago, Hollis says.

Instead, he predicts iQ sales could falter due to the continuing economic rut in which many 20-somethings find themselves. The group’s national unemployment rate is near 19% and in some key Scion markets, such as California, it’s more than 20%.

“There’s always that cautious optimism,” Hollis says of the microcar’s monthly sales goal.

Pre-launch advertising for the iQ begins soon, with de rigueur irreverent online spots, including one touting the car’s parking ease featuring a Barack Obama impersonator. A set of online commercials, “Donuts & Donuts,” has “Jersey Shore”-cast lookalikes doing donuts with their car in a donut-shop parking lot.

The iQ’s launch campaign, “iQ Therefore I Am,” consists of four commercials that call out the car’s attributes. Scion ads typically have been brand-centric and short on specs.

“This is something new for Scion,” Hollis says. “And the iQ is a good car for us to experiment with. If Scion is going to continue to be an innovation laboratory for our company, we need to try new things.”

The debut next year of an iQ electric vehicle remains on track and continues to be focused on private-fleet opportunities that are not traditional to Toyota.

“When it comes to EVs, I think everybody’s putting a toe in the water,” Hollis says. “Everyone’s trying to experiment to figure out (the potential size of the segment.) At Scion, we want to learn before we go in (a retail) direction.”

Placing the iQ EV, as well as gas-powered model, into a car-sharing program also is being studied.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com