I guess Motor Week
‘s getting a reputation for edgy choices when it comes to it’s Drivers’ Choice Awards.
Last year, the weekly auto program’s top choice was the Honda Fit, a zippy little hatchback from the design family evocatively known as “pregnant roller skates.” Edgy choices for 2008 included again holding their press conference in the last slot of the day (4:30 p.m.) — about three inches into the finest snowstorm I’ve seen in years — and draping the Best of the Year mantle on the awkward, boxy frame of the Scion xB.
Popular Release Series Continues with Second-Generation xB
In an effort both to freshen the vehicle and to inspire buyers to do their own customization, Scion began offering Release Series special editions with the first xB. There were four with the first generation, none built in quantities of more than 2500 units, and the first for the second generation is on display at the 2008 North American International Auto Show.
Release Series 5.0, continues the number sequence began with the first generation. Typical of the Scion RS products, only 2500 units of the 5.0 will be built. As before, changes to create the xB RS 5.0 are mostly cosmetic. Among the notable elements is the first xB moonroof. The RS 5.0′s exterior color, called Gold Rush Mica, was inspired by the color the introduction car wore at the 2007 Chicago auto show. The RS 5.0 also gets new wheel covers and a KenStyle body kit as standard; a color-keyed rear spoiler is optional. The exterior color carries into interior trim and seat fabric, and there is the requisite numbered badge.
Introduction Simulcast on SecondLife.com
2008 xB and xD Take Over from First xB and xA
While Scion Vice President, Mark Templin, was presenting the new xB and xD to media at the Chicago auto show, his alter-personality at secondlife.com (called an avatar) was doing the same. SecondLife.com is an online world that started in 2003 and is now “inhabited” by 3.4 million people globally, and this is the first vehicle introduction simulcast in this online world. Secondlife.com is another way to communicate with people who need transportation once they return to the physical world and automotive manufacturers are taking notice. This is especially relevant for Scion, a brand with an average buyer at only 30 years old and an owner base that is probably the most plugged in of all.
Scion was first envisioned as a line of cars with single lifecycles, though a box is expected to be a staple of the brand. Following this plan, the second-generation xB and the new xD were introduced at the 2007 Chicago auto show. xD takes the showroom space previously occupied by the xA. The xB arrives in dealers in April 2007 and the xD in August.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just released their first crash ratings for Economy Compact Cars. They call them “minicars”. The IIHS often releases results like this to pressure car makers to achieve higher safety results than are required by the Federal Government (NHTSA). Being part of the insurance industry, the IIHS charter is to provide information that consumers can use to select a safer car or light truck – and hence a car that might generate lower personal injury claims in an accident.
Force Still Equals Mass X Acceleration… F=MA
The first thing you learn in Physics 101 is F=MA. Basically, this equation means that something bigger is going to win if it hits something smaller. People have historically bought Lincoln Town Cars partly because they were so big that they were guaranteed a “win” in an accident. The same thinking goes with Large Sport Utility Vehicles like the Chevrolet Suburban.
A very small car is going to lose in an accident with a much larger vehicle. There will be much more physical damage to the small car than to the big one. And all things being equal, people riding in the small car are more at risk. The IIHS and Federal Government have noted that as fuel economy goes up (through vehicles getting lighter and smaller), damage and injuries also go up. In this case, bigger and heavier is better. But with skyrocketing gas prices folks rightly want more fuel efficient cars and trucks.
With that in mind, Economy Compacts have been introduced… Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa are the three that were launched in 2006 as 2007 model year cars. Only the larger Versa aced the crash tests… Versa includes side curtain air bags as standard equipment. Yaris, where side curtain air bags are optional, fails if it is not equipped with these safety enhancements.
The IIHS press release is included below the fold if you want to read the whole thing. But just remember, when it comes to safety, and all other things are equal, the bigger vehicle will win. F will always equal MA.
Honda Tries to Out-xB Scion with Step Bus
Man Maximum, Machine Minimum
Shown at the LA Auto Show on Wednesday, November 28 the Honda Step Bus Concept appeared to be a clear appropriation of the Scion xB rolling box. Maybe it can thought of as a mix between the Honda Element and the Honda Fit… both of which have solid followings in the USA. The VehicleVoice and AutoPacific crew were on hand when the Step Bus was unveiled.
With a mid-mounted engine and a wide-opening sliding side door on the driver’s side of the concept (clearly built for the Japanese domestic market with right hand drive), Honda positions this vehicle as “man maximum, machine minimum”.
Reflex Introduction at 2006 NAIAS
It is said around town that Ford is considering how and when they may re-enter the (very) small-car segment, which includes cars priced from around $10,000 to $15,000 or so fully equipped. This segment is expected to see substantial growth over the next several years. These cars are smaller in size than entries like the Ford Focus or Honda Civic, and most typically wear sedan or hatchback bodystyles. Chevrolet’s Aveo, Toyota’s all-new Yaris and the defunct Echo, the Scion xA, the Hyundai Accent and Kia’s Rio are among examples of vehicles in this segment.
While the 2005 Ford SynUS concept explored the possibilities a boxy urban vehicle might provide (certainly in part inspired by the Scion xB), on the 2006 auto show circuit the concept is for a sporty small car that takes into account room for small children. Enter the Reflex. Reactions by VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) analysts are very positive.
The Scion xB was launched in the USA in 2003 first in California, then the Southeast and finally nationally. The xB has been a pleasant sales surprise for Scion and Toyota Motor Sales, USA. In fact the Spartan xA hatchback was projected to outsell the xB by a wide margin and the reverse happened. Interestingly, when first images of the xB were released VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) research and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) forecasts projected that xB would be more of a success than predicted by Toyota itself.
Scion xB by Toyota Motor Sales USA
The xB is a rolling box. It is a low-priced people mover with a huge rear seat and little cargo room, but has proved popular with young and old alike.
The Scion concept is to take Toyota vehicles on sale in Japan and sell them in the USA with minimal changes. Originally, each vehicle was to be a one-off. In other words, each Scion would live for only a few years and then be dropped. A new vehicle would be launched that would provide Scion dealers with equal or more volume. In this way, there would be no successor to the xB. Because of the popularity of the xB, there may indeed be a successor.
Launched in 2000 in Japan, Toyota has just released its successor to the bB (xB’s Japanese name). While not as boxy as the present xB, the Japanese bB is clearly evolutionary. It continues the highly space-efficient packaging, if not the funky styling, of the present vehicle.
Toyota bB launched on December 26, 2005 in Japan
If Scion xB continues, expect it to be a mild evolution of the new bB in Japan. But the scary thing is the whimsical description Toyota uses to describe the bB in Japan, “A Car-shaped Music Player that Incorporates Youthful Sensibilities”… WOW!
Scion xB Wins AutoPacific 2005 Compact Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award
“Young, hip owners of the Scion xB rate the xB highest in the Compact Car category. Sold to perhaps the most difficult people to satisfy (young males), xB owners rate overall satisfaction very high plus giving xB high marks for fuel economy, price, rear seat room… and lets not forget its funky styling.”