In 2003, the average new-Toyota buyer was five years older than buyers of new Volkswagens. In response, Toyota introduced the Scion brand in the U.S. market.
Scion was positioned and marketed as a first-new-car, to attract Gen-Xers to the Toyota fold and keep them there. The new brand was initially successful with quirky models like the xB.
But Scion's been dealt a one-two knockout by the economy and demographics. Just before the '08 recession, the average age of a new car buyer was 43. Today, it's 52. (For reference, the average new car buyer is now about a decade and a half older than the average American, and has an income about one and half times as great.)
But wait, it gets worse; the '08 recession didn't just take Millennials out of the market for new Scions, it reprogrammed a lot of them to think about cars differently. Uber and car-sharing suddenly looks like a real alternative to life with a car. And among younger buyers who need or want a car of their own, new cars seem to have lost their shine. Part of the blame for that shift falls on Toyota, too. Manufacturers have spent the last 30 years improving quality and durability, to the point that used cars are more reliable and desirable than ever.
Over the long haul, Toyota (like every other car maker) needs to find a way to ensure that when people finally buy new, they buy a Toyota. But between now and then, the reality is that if they want to be in the new car business at all, they've gotta' pay attention to mature consumers.