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Toyota revs up Scion with two new models

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Toyota revs up Scion with two new models

Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

Toyota Motor Corp. is rejuvenating its sagging Scion brand with the launch of two new models this year and next: a redesigned tC coupe and a tiny iQ.

Toyota expects to double sales of the tC, the most popular model in the Scion lineup, after fitting the new car with a bigger yet more fuel-efficient engine and an improved sound system.

The new tC, which goes on sale next month, has more safety features than the outgoing model and a more refined interior, too.

The tC with manual transmission will cost $18,275, up $1,175 over the 2010 model; the tC with automatic transmission has been priced at $19,275, up $1,375.

In its first full year, Toyota expects to sell 34,000 to 35,000 2011 Scion tCs, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis said at a presentation in Rochester Wednesday. That compares with sales of 17,998 in 2009.

In March, a fourth model will be added to the Scion lineup: an entry-level iQ, a 10-foot long minicar that can seat four.

"It's a small car with a small footprint," Hollis said. "It's really going to be an urban vehicle."

He estimated its sales would be roughly comparable to those of the boxy xB, which totaled 45,000 in 2008 before plunging to 25,000 in 2009 when the auto market collapsed.

Scion suffered more in the downturn than most brands, with overall sales sliding to 57,961 last year from 113,904 in 2008.

"Young people have been hit hardest in this recession, especially in California and Florida," Hollis said. The jobless rate among people under 25 is double the national rate of 9.6 percent.

Scion also was at a disadvantage because it hadn't rolled out a new vehicle in nearly three years.

Analysts say the brand, conceived as an incubator to test what appeals to new generations of buyers, is grappling now with fundamental challenges.

"They targeted hip opinion leaders -- an inherently fickle group of consumers," said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of auto research firm Edmunds.com. "You can't be the next new thing very long."

But Scion was succeeding in its other objective, he said, which is to bring younger buyers to Toyota.

The median age of Scion buyers is 37, compared with 57 for Toyota brand buyers and 58 for the overall U.S. market. The tC has the youngest buyers, Hollis said, with a median age of 26.

As Toyota redesigned the tC, it took note of those buyers' wishes: They wanted sharper styling and a great sound system.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100916/AUTO01/9160357/1148/auto01/Toyota-revs-up-Scion-with-two-new-models#ixzz0zhNM8kZU

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