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Toyota studies a rear-drive entry for Scion

Fri, 06 Aug 2010

Scion vice president Jack Hollis is a former Stanford and AAA baseball player who, but for an injury, coulda been a contender, coulda played in the show.

He's not one to boast--he didn't tell us of his baseball days, we got it from someone else. Nonetheless, you'd imagine the 6-foot-2-inch auto exec would have a pretty good self-image. But when trying to describe his conduct in meetings with executives in Japan, he knows exactly who he looks like.

"Who's that kid in Welcome Back Kotter," he asks. "The one who's always raising his hand and saying, 'Ooo, ooo, ooo!"


"Yeah, that's the one, I'm like Horshack raising my hand saying, 'Ooo! Ooo! Rear wheel-drive, rear wheel-drive!"

In that case, count us as Horshacks, too.

We spoke with Hollis at the recent Scion tC introduction in San Diego. Hollis was asked what segments were currently underserved, which is just another way of asking what's coming next. Hollis just about ruled out any convertible, hybrid or electric car, but waxed longingly about a rear-wheel-drive Scion.

"A rear-wheel-drive car would actually work," said the division head. "A rear-wheel-drive application would be great for Scion. Horshack, that's me when it comes to rear-wheel drive whenever I go to Japan."

Hollis cautioned that such a configuration "would probably go over the $20,000" price ceiling Scion has set for itself, but we could live with that.

Hollis would not say if the Toyota FT86--the rear-drive coupe that is part of a joint development program with Subaru--would spawn a Scion variant.

We suggested the Toyota Avensis, which exists in other markets as an all-wheel-drive platform and was used by drifters making cars for D1 and other drifting competition.

"Sure," Hollis said. "The marketplace still demands fun-to-drive vehicles. It would be great to top that off with having a rear-wheel-drive application."

Then he put a bit of a damper on it. "Whether we could pull that off remains to be seen."

How soon could such a car come out, we asked, hope springing eternal--four, five years?

"Honestly I have no way to answer that question because we're still in the study phase," he said.

Did you hear that? They're studying it!

"I love it but time will tell."

The idea that a guy of Hollis' clout is such a strong advocate of something so obviously wonderful as a small, inexpensive rear-drive car, of who cares what configuration--sedan, coupe, roadster--gives hope to car enthusiasts everywhere.

In that, we're all Horshacks.

By Mark Vaughn