Earlier this year Toyota announced they would be ceasing all operations of the Scion brand to their family of vehicles. The news spread amongst the automotive world like wildfire bringing forth many opinion pieces on the unusual brand. When I first heard of Scion’s fate it struck me as not much of a surprise, yet I felt myself relatively somber when hearing the announcement. Despite the overall quirkiness of the make, one must admit the overwhelming impression it left on the rest of the automotive world. Especially when faced with designing and selling cars towards the younger generation of buyers, Scion blazed a trail that could not be denied.
I distinctly remember my first ever impression with the Scion brand. My father and I were at the Columbus International Auto Show. Making our way around the large open convention hall, we walked amongst the various usual manufacturers touting their new up and coming models. The crisp sound of factory fresh doors closing and opening, the smell of new car in the air it was always a treat to the senses on this trip. Suddenly I noticed a small area full of horribly ugly cars. One shaped like a box and another shaped like what can only be described as a beet. The logo above them read “Scion”. What is this? I wondered to myself. Is this a new brand? What are they? What do they want? As I looked at these cars I noticed several women dressed in unusual clothing trying to look hip or trendy. As I stuck around I overheard someone in the general public say that this was Toyota’s attempt to appeal to the younger generation. One thing was certain; I wasn’t buying whatever Scion was trying to sell.
When it came to cars my interests varied widely, but for the most part, I was attracted to the euro sport compact hatch style. The VW Golf was always a favorite of mine and I saw myself owning one eventually. My first car during high school was a 1988 Mazda 626. In college I transitioned to a VW Jetta. It was here that I would begin to learn a lot of things about the VW that would eventually skew my feeling about Euro cars. The Jetta I owned for eight years, and while the vehicle ran fairly well for the most part, I had become tired of the constant repairs and random parts that would constantly break. In addition the car was in a crash prior to my owning of the so the transmission was badly rebuilt, which lead to issues with the 2nd gear sync. Despite it’s nagging problems, I still manage to look back on my time with the Jetta fondly.
It was because of my issues with the Jetta however that I decided to consider cars outside of the VW family. I cast a pretty wide net when it came to makes and models and test-drove around 7 or 8 different cars before I decided between two. Ironically enough the two cars I was down between would be two I never expected. After my issues with my Jetta, I never thought I would be considering the VW Golf TDI, but I found the much more refined style and performance very appealing. The other car was even more of a shock, the Scion tC.
Many years had passed since my first initial impressions of the Scion brand. When the first tC hit the market in 2004, I recognized it as the most conventional of all the Scion offerings. Still I was underwhelmed by the relatively boring rounded design that was very much “Audi TT-like”. The 2011 introduction fixed a lot of what was missing. The sharp edges, the rear quarter window, the long rear windscreen lift back. This car was modern but very much paid homage to the late 70s early 80s Celica and Supra which the tC was meant to replace. I loved the drivability and the versatility of the car. Overall the car seemed to be a much higher quality offering and checked all the boxes for what I was looking for. The final selling point for me was the price which was around $5000 less than what I would’ve spent on the Golf. The decision was made. I was the proud owner of a brand new Scion tC.
In many ways the tC was a great car for the time of my life I purchased it for and I believe that was the point behind the Scion brand. I was in my mid-20s, single, living in a relatively urban area, and still trying to figure out a lot of things in my life. This was a car that was incredibly versatile that I was able to use in a variety of ways. It was a two door, that I was able to take to work, drive around the city. I could load my bike, a hockey bag, or skis, with relatively little issue. If I needed to take more than myself and one other person, the rear seats actually had a surprising amount of room. I drove this car to Boston, Montreal, and Chicago and back. Regularly beyond the usual everyday requirements this car requires I love to just take this car and drive it. So, then I had to ask myself, what happened?
When I took some time to think about the Scion brand I remembered a thought I always had to myself: “I love my Scion, I just wish it was a Toyota”. What was it about the Scion brand that lessened the value of the car? Several things came to mind when I thought of this question. Mostly the Scion brand seemed to be a giant punchline in the automotive world. Outside of the tC and the FR-S the majority of the Scion offerings were rather ugly, underpowered, uninspiring people movers, not exactly what a “young and energetic” brand needs to excel. So at the end of this year all of the Scions with the exception of the FR-S, the iA, and the iM will cease to exist, including my tC.
In my mind that is a shame. The tC was consistently the best selling and most popular model of the brand, so it doesn’t make very much sense that they would stop producing it. I’m hoping its absence is only temporary and we can see it live again as a Celica. For now however, I’ll continue to enjoy driving my tC wherever my life continues to take me and give a subtle nod to the countless others I still continue to see on the road.