A few months back, I made a post suggesting what Toyota could do to make their Scion division more successful.
Today, I had an interesting line of thought that takes things in a different direction.
That direction would result in Scion being split away from being co-branded at dealers with Toyota, and re co-branded with a different division.
And I’m not talking Lexus, either.
Nope, the idea would bring Daihatsu back to the US market.
And the direction would put these two brands in the following positions, a bit different than that of parent Toyota.
Scion: Slightly upscale models with high value, lineup consisting of a mix of rebadged Toyotas otherwise unavailable in the US and Scion exclusive models (ex. tC).
Daihatsu: A more bare bones product that is value driven, but can be optioned up if the customer chooses.
Now, in order for this to work, they would have to get it so that kei cars, which make up the bulk of Daihatsu’s lineup in Japan, can be brought to the US with larger engines that are more capable of meeting demands of the market’s customers.
Let’s focus on Daihatsu first.
Their US lineup, in my plan, would be led by the Mira. This is their main volume model in Japan, and would likely be the same here.
As with all of the other kei models, the engine choices would be larger than in Japan, with the base model having a 1 liter (approximately) 3-cylinder engine, which is .2L smaller than that of the Mitsubishi Mirage.
But, there’s a slight downside. Daihatsu would have to redesign the Mira completely for it to be worth bringing, because the current Mira generation is almost nine years old (introduced in December 2006).
For an additional cost, customers could be treated to a JDM-like pair of powertrain additions that can be ordered together: a turbo and all-wheel-drive.
In Japan, today’s kei cars are usually offered in 4 forms: non-turbo FWD, non-turbo AWD, turbo FWD, and turbo AWD, some offering a hybrid system as well.
But we’ll leave the hybrids to Toyota. I’ll explain why soon enough.
The Daihatsu lineup can’t be saturated with a ton of similar cars here, though. So only a smaller selection of the more diverse models in the lineup will make the cut, resulting in the following being part of said lineup:
The all new Cast, which is available in 2 forms, the more urban Cast Style (seen above) and the more rugged looking Cast Activa (seen below).
And if that doesn’t excite you, there’s this...
The Cast Sport. Throw a turbocharged 1.2 or larger engine under the hood, and you could have yourselves a mini Japanese Abarth 500 on your hands.
The Cast would be one of Daihatsu’s more premium models, along with the next one below, generally bridging the gap between Daihatsu and Scion on content and size.
That other premium Daihatsu would be this: the Copen.
That’s right, the loveable kei roadster would be part of my plan, and offered with either the 1.0 from the other models, or the larger displacement turbo in what would be the US-spec Cast Sport.
But, to make it a more sensible addition, one variant of the Copen would be dropped.
In Japan, you can get it in either the standard Robe, the sportier XPLAY seen above, or the more classic styled Cero, which mimics the look of the original Copen.
If I had my way, the Robe would be dropped, and the Copen would be offered in just the XPLAY and Cero styles.
The XPLAY would also be renamed to something that would click better with customers, like Copen Track or Copen Sprint.
Both versions would be offered with all powertrain options of the Cast lineup, so you can choose either bodystyle with whatever you want under the hood and in the drivetrain for your utmost satisfaction.
Certain Daihatsu models would be completely bypassed and left out. The standard Move and it’s Custom variant, along with e:S variant of the Mira, Tanto and Tanto Custom, Boon, Mebius (a rebadged Prius a), and Altis (literally a Daihatsu version of a Camry Hybrid) would all be passed over for these five other models:
The Move Conte, which would simply get the Conte moniker, along with the Conte Custom.
The Mira Cocoa, the other half of the more retro styled duo for the brand, along with the Copen Cero.
The Be-Go, which would bring the Rocky nameplate back for the US market. It, like the Mira, would have to be redesigned first, as the current model dates back to 2006.
This would be the more basic competitor of the other subcompact CUVs in the US market, compared more directly to the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, and Nissan Juke, while whatever Toyota is currently planning would compete against models like the Fiat 500X, Buick Encore, and Mazda CX-3.
The Wake, as their primary passanger van.
And their commercial model, the Hijet, which would be offered in a special package exclusive to the US: the Rural Postal Special.
That would basically be a turbodiesel 3-cylinder, RHD variant of the Hijet cargo van.
It would be offered in both FWD and AWD, N/A and turbo, and targeted to small rural towns that even a traditional postal van is too big for their needs.
Both the truck and van variants (which, if you look closely, aren’t based on the same bodystyle) would be offered, but the van would not be offered in a passenger version, leaving the van part of the lineup to the Wake alone.
This would leave Daihatsu with a slightly more diverse yet not crowded lineup, and wouldn’t crowd Scion when sharing the same showroom.
Which is exactly what they would be doing.
In this plan, Scion would split off from Toyota dealerships (but likely not franchises, as most Daihatsu/Scion dealers would be close by), and in some locations, replaced by Lexus, giving Toyota dealers a luxury option for their customers in the same location.
One could say this kinda seems similar to Chrysler in the 90’s, with Lexus/Toyota being like Chrysler/Plymouth and Daihatsu/Scion being somewhat like Jeep/Eagle.
But, unlike those, the models would rarely, if at all, overlap, so the divisions aren’t competing against each other and crowding another brand out of the showroom or out of business altogether.
Also, the showroom and service itself would be a bit more akin to the way dealers are operated in Japan, with a smaller selection of new cars (though the whole lineups would always be available, it would just likely be less than 5 of each in stock at a time), showrooms and facilities that function like their Japanese counterparts, and a separate and branded used car portion.
So, what about Scion’s lineup? Well, it would be a bit of a drastic change, but my ideas for the brand have adapted.
Let’s start with bringing the xB back once again. This time, instead of it being what it is/was, let’s make it more of a funky, upbeat Kia Soul competitor AND Ford Transit Connect competitor.
How, you may ask?
With this: the Sienta. You know, the new generation Sienta that was inspired by an trekking shoe?
Yeah, that one. It’s small and has funky styling, a great competitor for the likes of the Soul, and it’s got sliding doors and is an MPV, a great competitor for the Transit Connect.
These next ideas actually came from the recent ‘Dieselgate’ involving VW.
The iD, a slightly upscale Scion variant of the Toyota Avensis...
...and the iW, a slightly upscale Scion variant of the Toyota WISH.
Take these both, offer the iD in the wagon variant as well, offer diesel engines in the iD sedan, iD wagon, and iW MPV, and steal sales away from the suffering Volkswagen Jetta, Passat, and maybe even the Audi A4.
The current Scion models...iA, iM, tC, and FR-S would remain as they are, but receiving diesel options in all but the FR-S, and the FR-S and tC would probably get a redesign as well, along with a hatchback bodystyle for the tC that would allow it to become a hot hatch.
Something that pushes Scion just a little bit ahead, somewhat into Hyundai territory. A larger RWD luxury sedan, the Scion cA, for Crown Athlete.
Again, just like Daihatsu, a lineup that isn’t crowded and oversaturated.
It’s decently balanced (I was gonna throw in a Scion version of the Hilux, but considering Toyota has the Tacoma, I’d rather replace the Tacoma with the Hilux and either keep the Hilux name or make the Hilux the next generation Tacoma.
The only thing missing is a larger MPV to slot above the iW/WISH, but I couldn’t decide on either an Alphard/Vellfire, a Voxy/Esquire/Noah, or an Estima, so I’d let that be debated.
Anyway, I think this idea would make for a great return for Daihatsu to the US market, a great way forward for Scion, and a great way to truly introduce the US to the Kei car.
Anyways, that’s The Big Idea for today. Tomorrow, I plan to look at where FCA is headed globally, and what they probably should and shouldn’t do.