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Scion dealers say tiny iQ is coming in 2010

Mon, 17 Aug 2009

Looking to bring zip to the brand, Scion will add the iQ small car in the fall of 2010.

Jack Hollis, vice president of the division, would say only that he's fighting for the car, which is slightly longer than the 105-inch Smart. But dealers say they have been told it's a done deal.

"Jack told us it's coming next September or October," said one large Toyota dealer who did not want to be identified.

Scion badly needs new product. The three it has -- the tC, xB and xD -- have lost luster in the marketplace. Scion's sales were down 57.8 percent through July. So far this year its halo nameplate, the boxy xB, has been outsold by its funky new rival, the Kia Soul, which went on sale in February.

Yoshi Inaba, who recently returned as president and COO of Toyota Motor North America Inc., recently told reporters that he intends to recharge the Scion brand.

"Scion is a good business model that will be valuable and viable in the future," Inaba said, "but for the business model to be successful, product freshness is key."

The iQ went on sale as a Toyota in Japan and Europe during the fourth quarter of 2008. It is 117.5 inches long and seats three adults and a child. It gets about 66 mpg. It was shown as a Scion concept at the New York auto show in April. The concept was powered by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine.

In New York, "the interest was so high that it would be silly for us not to fight for it," Hollis said, "but the next-generation tC is our top priority now."

The tC, Scion's sporty coupe, has not had a major makeover since it was introduced in 2004.

Hollis said the tC will be redesigned in mid-2010, but he was mum about specifics. One person familiar with the redesign expects the coupe's current 2.4-liter, 161-hp engine to be replaced by a 2.7-liter four cylinder that could produce up to 200 hp. He also expects more aggressive styling.

Dawn Ahmed, corporate manager of Scion, said Scion customers are begging for more power: "The top two requests are a more performance-based sports car and a hybrid."

Hollis said Scion will continue with only one trim level of each nameplate and encourage shoppers to personalize their vehicles. He said the brand isn't likely to offer engines with more than four cylinders or to build models larger than subcompacts.

"An expansion of our product is a necessity," Hollis said. "To go beyond three is the plan, but we don't know the right number."

By Kathy Jackson- Automotive News