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The Scion Brand Is Dead

Toyota’s Gen Y-focused brand got a visit from the corporate grim reapers at 9 a.m.

The Scion badge will perish, Toyota has announced. Employees were reportedly called into a meeting yesterday and sung the dirge, then given two possible fates: a few would remain on the job until August, working to clear dealership lots. The others would be laid off. Redundant workers can re-apply for jobs at Toyota, but they’ll have to move to the automaker’s U.S. headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, if accepted.

Jim Lentz, founding vice president of Scion and now CEO of Toyota Motor North America, spun the move this way: “I was there when we established Scion and our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers. I’m very proud because that’s exactly what we have accomplished.”

It’s a been a long, slow dying of the light for Gen Y brand, which was established in 2002. Scion gained huge success by thinking inside the box with the first xB wagon, the new millennium source of Toyota swagger long before the Sienna tried to rap its way into street cred. The xA hatchback played excellent support at launch, the tC coupe appeared in 2004 and proceeded to outsell both siblings.

Sales peaked in 2006 with 175,000 cars, but the brand stumbled in its second act. The next-generation cars couldn’t catch lightning with the help of a telephone pole, and Toyota seemed indifferent. At the same time, Scion seemed to be debating whether it still wanted Gen Y specifically or just anyone with money. Toyota took a few desultory stabs at reigniting the embers, launching the Scion FR-S in 2013, the iM (a European-market Toyota Auris) and Mazda2-based iA last year, and promoting the Toyota C-HR concept as a future Scion crossover. Nothing doing. Scion sold 56,167 cars in 2015.

Yet Scion had its very important day, and should not be forgotten. The company nailed its brief at launch, making it easy, inexpensive, and fun for Gen Y to own a rolling lifestyle good. Then it backed up its funky products by carpet-bombing the demo with funky events, funky marketing, and a whole lot of funky tuning. Plenty of automakers would be glad to have Scion on their resumes. Should the brand really take Charon’s ferry ride this morning, even though it didn’t end with a bang, we enjoyed—and respect—the bang we got.