Toyota to Beef Up Scion’s U.S. Product Line

Toyota’s Scion brand plans to introduce two new models to the U.S. market according to President of Toyota Motor North America, Incorporated, Yoshi Inaba. Only one of the company’s three Scion models available in the U.S. were actually designed and engineered in the U.S.

Speaking with reporters at this week’s Detroit auto show, Yoshi Inaba said, “Scion is pretty much a North American brand, so that is why it is very natural to think more development, more design work, should be done in North America.”

He went on to say, “We all recognize the importance of Scion. It should be more locally developed. ‘Influenced’ — that is a better word.”

Inaba served as the head of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. from 1999 to 2003. In 2007, he retired from the company but returned to the company as part of the new management team installed this past summer by Toyota’s new CEO, Akio Toyoda.

Shortly after returning to the company last summer, Inaba told reporters, “One of my jobs is to revive the Scion spirit in the United States.” Inaba is credited as driving force behind the creation of the Scion brand.

Last year, Scion sales in the U.S. fell by 49% from 2008 levels across the three available models. Total U.S. sales for the tC model in 2009 fell by 56% year-to-year to 17,988 units.

Inaba told an assembly at the Automotive News World Congress on Tuesday that Toyota has neglected its Scion brand over the past two years. He also announced that the Scion brand will get two new models in 2010. He said the new products “will rejuvenate the brand and bring additional younger buyers into the Toyota family.”

The Scion tC is the only model available in the U.S. to have been developed here. Assembly of the tC is done in Japan. The other two Scion models available in the U.S., the xB and xD, were designed for markets other than North America.

Inaba told reporters that Toyota has not yet determined which Scion models will be added to the U.S. product lineup. He said, “We will figure out what we need. We need to focus on more products based on the customer’s needs, what the customer wants.”

Inaba also told reporters that Scion intends to continue marketing the Scion to younger drivers. “The important thing,” he said, “is to try and appeal to a younger segment. The role of Scion is to grow them into Toyota or Lexus so that has not changed.”

Toward that end, Inaba said the company is evaluating what technologies younger drivers desire in their vehicles. He told reporters, “We have to be tuned to the needs of younger customers,” and added, “Connectivity is a very important issue [and] our products should take care of their interests and their needs.”

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