So! We've all woken up today to discover that we have one fewer automotive brand to cover, because Toyota is killing Scion.
This isn't the death of the auto industry we're talking about here — it's been a while since Scion was selling in significant volumes, and I don't think anyone is shocked to see it go. But here's what I do take away from it: fun is dying.
That is not an exaggeration. Take it in. This is real. The transportation industry is turning into white bread before our very eyes.
Scion was originally rolled out in 2002 to get teens and twentysomethings into their first and second cars. And Toyota would tell you it was successful, because that's how spin works! "Scion achieved its goals of developing unique products and processes, and bringing in new, younger customers to Toyota," the company says. "Today's younger buyers still want fun-to-drive vehicles that look good, but they are also more practical."
"More practical." Read it again. If you had to boil Toyota's entire press release down to a single phrase, that would be the one.
If you've been following the auto industry at all over the last several years on The Verge or elsewhere, you will have noticed that major car companies are trying very hard to find ways to not sell cars. They read the same reports that we do; they see the same trends. "Millennials don't want to own anything," they hear. And technological pressure from Silicon Valley — a place that has a lot of millennials, coincidentally — is making The Case Against Car Ownership even more compelling. There's Uber, there's Google, there are half a dozen other companies that are marching us toward a pool of completely driverless electric pods that we call with an app. No oil changes, no insurance, no break-ins, no alternate-side street parking, no pains in the ass. You just get where you're going when you need to get there.
Practicality is the sworn enemy of fun. So when you hang your brand on fun, on bizarre cubes with wheels, on DJ culture, and on the youngs, you're kind of hosed these days.
Dan Neil, whose reviews I always love, wrote in 2003 that the bizarre cube with wheels — the xB — was "aimed squarely at Japanophile Gen-Y buyers barely old enough to drive." So here's the thing: Generation Y is living in the burbs now, buying minivans and trucklets. And the boys and girls who replaced them are being told that they won't need licenses in a few years, because a robot will just do the work for you. You know, maybe you'll even just subscribe to an entire fleet of cars for moving people and cargo.
Oddly, even as Scion collapses, US car sales have been at an all-time high, driven by fuel prices that are at a decade-plus low. Most cars around these parts still run on gas, and we have hilariously, embarrassingly poor memories of spending $70 to fill the tank.
But if you look at the numbers, you can see why those aren't Scions. Cheap gas inspires people to buy trucks and SUVs, not this:
Technically, Toyota is rolling the Scion line up into the Toyota brand. That doesn't really mean anything, though, because Scion is a husk of its heyday self. Its best sales year was 2006, when it sold 173,000 cars, and it hasn't ever recovered since.
Meanwhile, Toyota, the spitting image of practicality, rolls on. The kids can just buy a Camry now. And you know what's great about that? You can drive Uber with a Camry.
Verge Video: Cool cars from 2015
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