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    • By Drew Dowdell
      Toyota Motor North America Reports February 2019 Sales
      Tacoma sales increased 10.2 percent; up for the 16th consecutive month Highlander sales up 8.9 percent; a best-ever February Lexus RXh sales up 52.5 percent; a best-ever February Lexus Luxury SUV sales up 7.0 percent; a best-ever February March 01, 2019 February 2019 Sales Chart

      PLANO, Texas (March 1, 2019) – Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) today reported February 2019 sales of 172,748 vehicles, a decrease of 5.2 percent from February 2018 on a volume and daily selling rate (DSR) basis.
      Toyota division posted February sales of 152,626 units, down 6.3 percent on a volume and DSR basis.
      Lexus posted February sales of 20,122 vehicles, up 4.4 percent on a volume and a DSR basis.
      February 2019 Highlights   Corolla sales up 16.0 percent Highlander sales increased 8.9 percent; a best-ever February C-HR sales increased 7.3 percent; a best-ever February Tacoma up 10.2 percent; a best-ever February Land Cruiser sales increased 52.5 percent LX sales up 6.8 percent ES sales increased by 23.8 percent in February RC sales up 50.0 percent NXh sales up 39.8 percent; a best-ever February RXh sales up 52.5 percent Lexus Hybrid sales up 112.3 percent Lexus Luxury SUV sales up 7.0 percent; a best-ever February  
      *Note: Unless otherwise stated, all figures reflect unadjusted raw sales volume.
    • By William Maley
      A few days before I got the 2016 Scion iM to do a week-long evaluation, news came out that Toyota would be closing the brand this fall. Most of the lineup, including the iM, would move over to Toyota. It feels somewhat weird to do a review on a brand that is essentially a dead man walking. But with the iM moving to the Corolla family, it would give us an idea of whether or not we recommend it.
      The Scion iM is a rebadged Toyota Auris that is sold in Europe and Japan. There isn’t a lot of differences between two models aside from new mesh inserts for the front and 17-inch alloy wheels. The overall design is polarizing. The front is long and low, with a narrow grille and bumper that looks like it has fangs. Around back is an interesting shape for the tailgate.

      Moving inside, the roots of Corolla show up. For example, the iM’s dashboard and certain equipment such as the steering wheel come from the Corolla. Many of the materials are hard plastics, while the door panels have some fabric covering certain parts. Considering the price tag of the iM, this isn’t a big deal. Scion should be given some credit for making the iM’s interior have some style such as a strip of faux leather running along the glove box and contrast stitching on the seats. 
      In terms of comfort, the iM is mixed. On short trips, the front seats provide decent support. Longer trips reveals the lack of thigh support. The back seat is small with limited head and legroom. Cargo space is towards the small side with only 20.8 cubic feet, trailing the Volkswagen Golf (22.8 cubic feet) and Ford Focus hatchback (23.3 cubic feet).
      Standard on the iM is a seven-inch touchscreen radio. It is your standard Toyota touchscreen system with a simple, if somewhat dated interface. The system is quick to respond when going between the various functions. Navigation is available as an option.
      Power for the iM comes from the Corolla LE Eco, a 1.8L four-cylinder producing 137 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. This can either be paired with either a six-speed manual or a CVT like our tester. Power delivery is not impressive as the engine can’t keep up with traffic and produces more sound than speed. Your foot will be near the floor if you want to try and get up to speed at a somewhat decent rate. The CVT seems to mesh with the engine better than the six-speed manual we drove last year. It is smart to know when it needs to increase or decrease engine rpm for various driving situations.

      In terms of fuel economy, the iM equipped with a CVT is rated at 28 City/37 Highway/32 Combined. We didn’t get close to any of those numbers as we only recorded 25.3 MPG for the week. A lot of this can be attributed to the iM coming during one of the coldest weeks in Detroit where temperatures were between -10’ to 20’ Fahrenheit. Before I would go anywhere, I would start up the vehicle to let it warm up for a few moments. If it was a bit warmer, I wouldn’t be surprised I could get the EPA numbers.
      One item I couldn’t fully report on during the iM first drive was how it rode. The particular vehicle I drove was fitted with some TRD suspension parts, giving me some different impressions from other folks that drove the standard model Now I can report on the iM’s ride and say it is pretty good. The iM provides a very forgiving ride on rough surfaces. This is partly due to the iM using an independent rear suspension and not the solid-axle setup found in the Corolla. We do wish Scion had put some sound deadening material in the iM as road noise comes in clear. Around corners, the iM doesn’t embarrass itself. There is little body roll and it feels composed. Steering is the weak point as it has rubbery feeling.
      The one place where Scion iM comes out on top is price. The 2016 iM starts at $19,255 for the manual and $19,995 for the CVT. Our tester with a few accessories came to an as-tested price of $20,334. That includes the touchscreen radio, dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels, LED taillights, keyless entry, and a backup camera. No other car in the class comes close.
      At the moment, we wouldn’t recommend the Scion iM. The engine is the big weakness as it can’t keep up with traffic and produces more sound than actual power. We also wished there was a little bit more cargo room. The low price does make it tempting, but a slightly used compact would be a better choice. As Scion drives off into the sunset and the iM heads over to Toyota, the automaker has its work cut out. There is a good car in the iM, but it needs a fair amount of changes. Whether Toyota does them or not remains to be seen.
      Cheers: Price, Ride Quality, Out There Styling
      Jeers: Lethargic Engine, Steering, Interior Space

      Disclaimer: Scion Provided the iM, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Scion
      Model: iM
      Trim: N/A
      Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve, Valvematic Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: 137 @ 6,100
      Torque @ RPM: 126 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32
      Curb Weight: 3,031 lbs
      Location of Manufacture:
      Base Price: $19,200
      As Tested Price: $20,334 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)
      Carpeted Floormats and Cargo Mat - $185.00
      Rear Bumper Protector - $89.00
      Wheel Locks - $65.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Badge engineering. Mention this term to anyone in the automotive industry and you are sure to get a look of disgust. This comes from past attempts where a number of automakers seemed to rightly mess it up. The classic example is GM’s A-Body vehicles from the eighties where each brand’s version looked very close to one another. This led to the infamous Fortune Magazine cover showing this. But when done correctly, badge engineering can actually do a lot of good. You’re probably wondering how badge engineering can be done correctly. One way is to bring over a model not sold in the country. A recent example is the Scion iA which is a Mazda2 in different clothing.
      Anyone who knows cars will instantly recognize the iA as a rebadged Mazda. The overall shape lines up perfectly with the larger 3 and 6 sedans. That’s not to say it is a bad thing. Mazda has been on a roll producing some of the sharpest looking vehicles in the industry and this model is no exception. Such details as a flowing character line and sculpting on doors make the iA a standout in a crowded class. Scion has done the requisite changes to transform the 2 into the iA with badge swaps and inserting a new front grille. The grille is the weak point in the iA’s as it doesn’t look quite right. Scion’s designers thought it would be a good idea to squish the tC’s grille and place it on the iA. The end result is polarizing, but not in a good way.

      The iA’s interior is all Mazda with simple dashboard design with a mix of hard plastics and soft-touch materials. Standard is a 7-inch touchscreen with Mazda’s infotainment system and control pod in the center console. The only real changes that you can pick out are the Scion emblem on the steering wheel and a different color palette for the infotainment system. 
      Getting yourself situated in the iA is quite easy with a small number of manual adjustments for the seat and a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes. Once adjusted, the seat provides excellent levels of comfort and support. Controls are within easy reach for driver and passenger and feel quite solid. Space in the back seat of the iA is what you expect in subcompact; decent amount of head and legroom for passengers under 5’7”. Trunk space measures out to 13.5 cubic feet, making it slightly better than other subcompact sedans.
      The infotainment system is somewhat infuriating to use with the touchscreen as it doesn’t seem to act like other touchscreen systems. A perfect example is listening to something on your iPod. You can pause or skip tracks by using the touchscreen. But if you want to pick a different album or artist, you can’t choose it by using the touchscreen. You’re better off using the dial controller in the center console to move around and control the system.
      Power comes from a 1.5L inline-four with 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque (@ 4,000 rpm). There is the choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Our test iA came with the manual. The modest power output of the engine does very well in the city as it gets up to speed at a good rate. The expressway is another story as the 1.5L struggles to get up to speed, even with your foot planted on the floor. The six-speed manual makes the engine slightly more flexible when it comes to making a pass, but you’ll still be pushing the pedal almost to the floor. The manual itself is quite enjoyable. Movement of the shifter is quite smooth and feels precise when it comes to putting it in gear. Fuel economy is rated at 31 City/41 Highway/35 Combined. I got an average of 37 MPG in mixed driving conditions.

      As it's a Mazda2 in disguise, the Scion iA is no slouch when it comes to driving fun. Around corners, the iA’s suspension feels sorted with barely any body roll and the willingness to change direction quickly. Steering is direct and provides the driver a decent level of road feel. Ride quality is smooth and the iA wasn’t unsettled by any bumps. One item I do wish Mazda and Toyota could work on is noise isolation. There is a good amount of road and wind noise coming into the cabin.
      One item that sets the Scion iA apart from the competition is a low-speed collision avoidance system that comes standard. A radar system mounted on top of the windshield monitors the road and if it detects an obstruction, it will warn the driver. In certain situations, the system can activate the brakes to prevent or reduce the amount of damage in an accident.
      The 2016 Scion iA proves that when done correctly, badge engineering does a lot of good. For Mazda who supplies the vehicle, it helps bring in some money so they can keep producing some of best driving vehicles on sale. For Scion (and soon to be Toyota), it gives them a subcompact sedan that is at the top of the class. The iA offers an engaging drive, extensive list of standard features, impressive fuel economy numbers, and good value. Our iA manual came with an as-tested price $16,495 with destination. The only option not on our vehicle was navigation for an additional $419.
      While the Scion brand will be going away, the iA will be sticking around as a Toyota (creatively named the Toyota Yaris iA). No matter what the badge might say, it will still be regarded as one the best decisions Toyota has ever made.
      Cheers: Smooth Six-Speed Manual, Fun to Drive, Automatic Braking System Standard
      Jeers: Small Back Seat, Engine's Performance is Weak Outside the City, Road & Wind Noise

      Disclaimer: Scion Provided the iA, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Scion
      Model: iA
      Trim: N/A
      Engine: 1.5L DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Manual
      Horsepower @ RPM: 106 @ 6000
      Torque @ RPM: 103 @ 4000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 31/41/35
      Curb Weight: 2,385 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Salamanca, Guanajuato, Mexico
      Base Price: $15,700
      As Tested Price: $16,495 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: N/A

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      For something a bit surprising. This morning, Toyota has announced that the Scion brand will be shuttered and the current lineup will transition over to the Toyota brand for the 2017 model year.
      News of this was first reported by CarBuzzard where a meeting was held yesterday with Scion employees notified of the decision.
      “This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota. Scion has allowed us to fast track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network,” said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America and the founding vice president of Scion in a statement.
      Scion was first introduced back in 2002 as a brand that was very different from Toyota as it was aimed at young buyers. It was fun and offered unique vehicles (the xA and xB at launch). The brand also did things a bit differently with a unique marketing campaign and a no haggle policy. Toyota hoped customers who bought Scions would transition into Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the future.
      But a number of issues plagued Scion which ultimately led to its downfall,
      The average age of Scion buyer was around 49 years old, not the young crowd Scion was hoping for (some reports put it at 15 percent of Scion customers were under the age of 35). Scion not updating their lineup at a decent rate and letting models languish Massive sales decline from 175,000 vehicles in 2006 (their best year) to 56,167 vehicles for 2015

      But it seemed last year Toyota was going to give the brand so much needed attention with the launch of the iA (Mazda2 sedan) and iM (Toyota Auris). There was also a new subcompact crossover that would be joining the lineup for 2017, the C-HR. But sadly, it was a little too late. The damage was done and Toyota realized there wasn't any way to save the brand.

      The twenty-two dedicated team members for Scion will be able to transition into positions at Toyota.
      “Scion has had some amazing products over the years and our current vehicles are packed with premium features at value prices. It’s been a great run and I’m proud that the spirit of Scion will live on through the knowledge and products soon to be available through the Toyota network,” said Andrew Gilleland, Scion vice president.
      Source: CarBuzzard.com, Motor Trend, Road & Track, Scion
      Picture: William Maley for Cheers & Gears
      Press Release is on Page 2

      Scion Brand to Transition to Toyota
      Valuable Insights Will Aid Toyota in Attracting New, Young Customers

      TORRANCE, Calif., Feb. 3, 2016 – Scion, established as a separate brand in 2003 as a laboratory to explore new products and processes to attract youth customers, is now transitioning back to the Toyota brand. Scion achieved its goals of developing unique products and processes, and bringing in new, younger customers to Toyota. With more than a million cars sold, 70 percent of Scions were purchased by customers new to Toyota and 50 percent were under 35 years old.

      “This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota. Scion has allowed us to fast track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network,” said Jim Lentz, founding vice president of Scion and now CEO, Toyota Motor North America. “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.
      “We could not have achieved the success we have had without the incredible support of Scion’s customers, dealers and team members, so supporting them throughout this transition process will be one of our top priorities,” said Lentz.
      Toyota’s decision was made in response to customers’ needs. Today’s younger buyers still want fun-to-drive vehicles that look good, but they are also more practical. They, like their parents, have come to appreciate the Toyota brand and its traditional attributes of quality, dependability and reliability. At the same time, new Toyota vehicles have evolved to feature the dynamic styling and handling young people desire.
      Scion has consistently been the youngest brand in the auto industry with an average age of 36 years old. At 29, the tC sports coupe has the lowest-average age buyer in the industry. The most recent additions to the line-up, the iA sedan and iM 5-door hatchback, are bringing in new buyers with 70 percent being first-time new car purchasers. Additionally, more than 50 percent of iM and iA buyers are under 35 years old.
      As part of the brand transition, beginning in August 2016, MY17 Scion vehicles will be rebadged as Toyotas. The FR-S sports car, iA sedan and iM 5-door hatchback will become part of the Toyota family. The tC sports coupe will have a final release series edition and end production in August 2016. The C-HR, which recently debuted at the L.A. Auto Show, will be a part of the Toyota line-up.
      The service and repair process for Scion customers will be unaffected by this change as customers will continue to visit Toyota dealerships’ service departments.
      “We appreciate our 1,004 Scion dealers and the support they’ve given the brand,” said Bob Carter, Toyota senior vice president of automotive operations. “We believe our dealers have gained valuable insights and have received a strong return on their investment. During this time of transition, we will work closely with them to support this process and help communicate this change to customers.”
      Scion’s 22 dedicated team members, who represent sales, marketing, distribution, strategy, and product and accessories planning, will have the opportunity to take on new jobs at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. in Torrance. Scion regional representatives will assume different responsibilities in their respective Toyota sales offices.
      “Scion has had some amazing products over the years and our current vehicles are packed with premium features at value prices,” said Andrew Gilleland, Scion vice president. “It’s been a great run and I’m proud that the spirit of Scion will live on through the knowledge and products soon to be available through the Toyota network.”
      Scion Accomplishments:
      Scion Processes - Scion served as a laboratory for products and key sales and marketing processes that have provided valuable lessons for other Toyota brands: Pure Pricing – dealers set a price for a car and customers did not need to negotiate Mono-Spec cars – providing cars with only two options: transmission and color Personalization – offering a large array of accessories to help customers customize their vehicles Pure Process – transparent financing process Pure Process Plus – an online system so much of the car-purchase process could be completed online Scion Service Boost – pre-paid maintenance plan Release Series – dynamic life cycle management through special features and options Grassroots marketing – initial Scion brand was “discovered” by customers through unique events Scion Products -- Scion has had some outstanding products that have made an impact in the industry including the original “box,” the xB and the FR-S affordable sports car. The tC sports coupe has consistently attracted the youngest buyer in the industry.

      Scion Executives -- Scion served as an important training ground for Toyota vice presidents, many of whom have been promoted to other roles:
      Jim Lentz -- Chief Executive Officer, Toyota Motor North America Mark Templin – Managing Officer, Toyota Motor Corporation, Executive Vice President, Lexus International Jack Hollis – Group Vice President, Toyota Marketing Doug Murtha – Group Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Planning, Toyota Motor North America Andrew Gilleland – current Vice President, Scion

      View full article
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