Scion Pickup Still a Possibility - How it Happens
At the New York International Auto Show, I had the opportunity to speak with Scion Vice President Doug Murtha. He told me the problem is two-fold: Chicken Tax and Scale.
Since the 1960s, the U.S. has had a 25 percent tariff on light truck imports. This "Chicken Tax" has helped insulate the U.S. automobile industry from foreign competition and has kept foreign pickups out of the U.S.. In fact, it was the big reason for the downfall of the VW bus craze during that time period. The tariff was actually lumped into a larger policy in response to U.S. chicken exports to Europe. This is where it gets its name. Over the years, all the other tariffs have been dropped except for light trucks.
With regards to Scion, if the Chicken Tax was dropped, they could look at ways to build the truck and import it into the U.S. You may be wondering why they don’t just build it in the U.S. This is the second point – scale.
In order to make building a Scion pickup, they would need to produce and sell around 100,000 units. Currently, Toyota has only the San Antonio, Texas plant to build trucks. And this plant is at or beyond capacity (depends who you ask). This capacity constraint is due to the fact that both the Tacoma and Tundra are built in San Antonio, and both trucks are selling very well.
If Scion can’t build their pickup there, they could try one of the other car factories in the U.S. Yet, building a car and a truck are vastly different things.
These issues keep the business case for a Scion truck as not feasible. However, what would a Scion truck look like? It would be a small, compact truck ideal for large cities.
Scion Pickup Imagined
A Scion pickup would most likely look like any of the concepts brought to the SEMA shows over the years. These trucks have the Scion styling focus of unique lines and trendy, youthful colors. It also would be built on a uni-body platform with a fuel efficient engine and low payload/towing capacity. In many ways, it would be a smaller, more stylish Honda Ridgeline.
The appeal is pretty obvious to those living in large cities. Driving and parking a full-size truck in a major city is a pain to put it lightly. However, the need for a pickup is still prevalent. People want to haul things like garden supplies, bicycles and groceries without worrying about messing up their SUV. A compact truck fits the bill for them.
This truck would be easy to drive/park, load supplies in (with a low bed) and fuel efficient. These features add up to a perfect combination for a compact truck.
Ongoing Trade Negotiations
Dropping a 50+ year old tariff to make way for a Scion truck might seem far-fetched, yet it may be a reality sooner than you think. Currently, the U.S. and 11 other nations including Japan are negotiating a new Trans-Pacific Partnership. This partnership may include dropping the Chicken Tax altogether. Negotiators have said they hope to have something wrapped up by year’s end.
With trade negotiations ongoing, a Scion pickup could be right around the corner. And yet, it is politics. It may never happen.