Could that Scion be a collectible one day?

Scion was a bit of an odd blip in automotive history. It was a short-lived brand that was part of the ToyotaTM, +0.92%  family. It was a budget brand, but it was a budget brand with a youthful edge. It was less focused on competing strictly on price and more focused on appealing to young drivers. This was achieved by offering affordable cars that actually had some style and a simple “pure price” concept with one-option cars at no-haggle pricing. Rather than having a range of trim levels, every Scion had one fairly well-appointed trim that could be customized to the buyer’s liking with dealer options to make it unique.

So, what went wrong with Scion? Part of it was bad timing. The brand launched in 2003 and the financial crisis of 2008 hit the whole car industry very hard, including budget brands. Scion was no exception and the brand just never quite recovered after that hit, especially since its whole business model was based on low-margin dealerships since cheap economy cars are always low-margin. There were no expensive pickup trucks on Scion lots to pick up the slack. Scion was killed off in 2016 and what was left of the brand was absorbed back into Toyota — a fate not unlike that of Geo.

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Scion has come and gone and lasted a little over a decade, having sold a little over one million cars in its brief history. Now that the Scion story is over, it raises the question, will any Scion products ever be sought-after collectible cars? If history tells us anything about the collectibility of cheap cars, the answer is probably no. Saturn, Geo and Eagle aren’t very collectible because their products, by and large, just weren’t that desirable. They were cheap cars that people bought because they couldn’t afford better cars. All three of those brands went under for a reason.

I wonder if Scion will be different. Scion was a brand that was about more than just undercutting competitors with lower prices and a straightforward dealership experience. It was a brand that took a look at what young drivers wanted and catered specifically to that demographic, not only with its products but with attractive incentives for college graduates. This strategy had mixed success. For example, the Scion xB was very popular with older drivers because it’s easy to get in and out of. That was the exact opposite of the demographic Scion was trying to attract. However, Scion deserves credit for its average buyer age being 39, which was the lowest in the industry.

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Speaking of the xB, if any Scion model becomes a future collectible, I think it might be that one. The xB (specifically the first-generation model) already has a bit of a cult following for being a very practical car that is far from boring. The first-generation xB is still a head-turner today with its aggressively boxy shape that yields a very space-efficient interior. Also, you could get one with a manual, which is always a plus with enthusiasts.

You might say the Scion FR-S could be a future collectible, but it turned into the Toyota 86, which, let’s face it, is the exact same car with different badging. I don’t see anyone specifically preferring the Scion over the Toyota unless they just want to be different, not to mention the existence of the Subaru BRZ. Then there are offerings like the xD and the xA, which you probably don’t even remember because they just didn’t really stand out.

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The most popular Scion model was the tC coupe and that’s another one that I could see becoming a collectible one day. It seems like one of those cars that could trade at surprisingly high prices years from now if any especially clean, low-mile examples pop up. This is another car that lived up well to the Scion ideals of being a car that’s very practical but looks cooler and has more personality than your average compact economy car.

The tC and the xB alone make up for almost 75% of all of the Scion models ever sold and those are the two I could see becoming collectible one day. The rest of the lineup is likely to rot in junkyards alongside Suzukis and Daewoos, but I could see a future market for well-preserved Scion models that appeal to drivers who want a car that was designed for young drivers in the 2000s. 

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