New Scion VP Gilleland with CHR concept

New Scion VP Gilleland with CH-R concept.

CH-R Close Copy of Scion Production CUV

Unlike when the brand launched 10 years ago, Scion’s new vice president says today’s younger buyers like and want utility vehicles.

LOS ANGELES – The Scion CH-R concept CUV is a 90% approximation of the production model the brand will retail in the U.S. in 2017.

“There’ll be some tweaks to it, (but) it’s very close,” Scion’s newly installed vice president, Andrew Gilleland, tells WardsAuto here in an interview during the 2015 Los Angeles auto show.

The wildly styled CH-R will join the hot-and-getting-hotter-by-the-day compact CUV segment, which should boost interest and volume for the struggling brand.

“I can tell you we’re numbers-driven, but you don’t need to be looking at too many numbers to realize the size of the small-(CUV) segment, and I think that’s just going to get more and more acute,” says Gilleland. “Fuel prices are pretty moderate and we figured out how to make really efficient motors that get good fuel economy, so I don’t see that (segment) slowing down anytime soon.”

WardsAuto’s Small CUV sector rose 49.0% through October, compared with only a 2.0% rise in the Upper Small car group. However, Upper Small, which includes the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, still is the bigger segment, with year-to-date volume of 1.88 million vs. 607,932 in Small CUV.

Also likely to help boost volume for the future Scion CUV is the fact it will not have a Toyota-brand twin in the U.S., Gilleland says, which should be helpful at the retail level as Scion and Toyota models are displayed in the same showrooms.

Toyota originally debuted the CH-R at the 2014 Paris auto show. It will be sold in Europe as a Toyota.

Today's Younger Buyers Different

At its inception in the early 2000s, a utility vehicle was a body type considered to be too dull for the young, hip demographic Scion was trying to attract.

But today’s younger car buyers are not turned off by them, especially those under 35 and living in urban areas, targeted by the CH-R.

“I was kind of the target demographic 10 years ago,” Gilleland says. “Typical Gen X, angry, don’t like big brands, don’t like big companies, product of divorce, the whole nine yards.

“And now what we’re finding is the Gen Ys and Millennials we’re really trying to target, they’re a lot more pragmatic and kind of positive and optimistic and so what they’re looking for in cars has also changed.”

Gilleland is hopeful the production version of the CH-R can appeal to those who loved the boxy xB subcompact, part of Scion’s original lineup and which was discontinued this year.

“I think people associated the (Toyota) Prius with green and xB with Scion. We’re hoping the CH-R does the same thing for us,” he says of model the brand internally considers to be as “iconic” as the xB.

Scion is referring to the CH-R as a compact-sized model, but Gilleland sees it competing with Honda’s HR-V, which technically is a subcompact model as it is based on the automaker’s Fit B-car platform.

“It’s probably similar in size to an HR-V. It’s smaller than a (Toyota RAV4),” he says, noting production-model dimensions are yet to be finalized.

Gilleland, most recently the general manager of Toyota’s Central Atlantic regional office and a former Scion national field operations manager, sees the new CUV becoming the brand’s biggest-selling model when it hits the market in 2017.

Through October, the No.1-selling Scion is the tC coupe, with 14,605 deliveries, WardsAuto data shows.

The Toyota youth brand is working to get its annual sales back over the 100,000-unit mark it enjoyed five to 10 years ago, but it won’t happen in 2016, Gilleland says.

“So next year we’ll probably do 75,000-80,000 (sales),” he says. Hitting six figures, set for 2017, is important to dealers as it increases their sales-per-store.

Scion deliveries are down 9.6% through October to 45,471 units, and while the brand has had two months of growth, driven by the new iA and iM B- and C-cars, Gilleland says closing the year in the black may not be possible.

“I think it’s going to be real close, real close. We need to do 7,000 a month, basically,” he says.

Scion’s September volume was 6,510 and it tallied 6,270 deliveries in October.

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