Scion unveils the Haku Coupe concept at the New York Auto Show

Scion Vice-President Jack Hollis introduced the Haku Coupe at the New York International Auto Show. The concept vehicle was designed by the Tokyo Design Division and is one of the concepts resulting from a study of global youth-inspired trends. The Haku Coupe in particular was inspired by the emergence of American vintage style among young Japanese trend setters.

scion haku

Scion representatives would not offer a timetable for availability of the Haku Coupe. The concept car is in the very early stages of development and many decisions and changes are bound to be made to the design. In fact, an engine and drivetrain package have yet to be determined for the car. The best guesstimate would be about three years before the final version of the Haku hits the street.

Scion considers itself to be an experimental laboratory. “The cool idea about Scion being an experimental brand is that we can try some things,” Jack Hollis stated, “We can try some things that Toyota of Lexus wouldn’t try yet, maybe nobody in the industry would try yet.” Scion’s goal is, “to bring new customers to Toyota, retain them within the family of brands and build an enthusiastic customer base.”

Currently, the median age for Scion customers is 30, the youngest in the industry. “These folks know a fantastic product, are young at heart and are trendsetters for their demographic,” said Hollis, “Our target, just as it was when the brand started, is the young trend leaders- about 10% of the 142 million people under the age of 35.”

“Scion has never been a volume brand and we don’t plan to become one,” Hollis added, “Last year we sold about 130,000 units and this year we’ll maintain that same sales volume.” Scion plans to continue as an experimental youth brand with a commitment to the creative community. “It’s a new line of cars, a new way of doing business,” said Hollis. “It’s so much more than a car company- it’s a lifestyle.”

Relying heavily on gorilla marketing techniques, Scion has done a great job of attracting new customers to the Toyota family. Currently, 72% of all Scion owners are new to Toyota. With a narrow target demographic, Hollis says, “Keeping our product line simple, fresh, exclusive are key to keeping our brand relevant.”

The Haku Coupe concept continues a trend of distinctive design that has become the signature of Scion. The very word haku is Japanese for ‘box.,’ and it’s clear that many will find the Haku ugly. “In fact,” Hollis stated, “that’s perfect. Polarizing style fits in very well with our lineup and the Scion personality- and of course scion loves a great box.” Scion doesn’t mention it, but haku is also a Japanese nobility title, roughly equivalent to a European Count.

The Haku is short with a wide stance designed to give it a tough, sinister appearance. A flat, vertical windshield gives it an aggressive look reminiscent of the “gangster” cars of the 20s and 30s. The rear window wraps seamlessly around the sides and is heavily tinted to give it an air of mystery. The narrow windshield, side and rear windows flow like a dark stripe around the entire vehicle.

It has a flat, low roof that is decorated with a random bar code visible from both the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Narrow, trapezoidal side mirrors match the trapezoidal headlights, taillights and grill of the vehicle. Headlights and taillights are LED, and an integrated fog and backup light on the left rear of the car balances the exhaust on the right. Since the exhaust is the same size as the backup light, it gives the appearance that one of the lights has simply gone out.

The interior is stark, lacking floormats. Integrated seating is made to be easily cleaned because, “young people live in their vehicles.” There are fisheye camera lenses that record the trip and driver and passengers can edit the video to post online, “to show where they’ve been.” The interior is designed with young gamers in mind. In fact, in many respects it resembles a video arcade. The entertainment system is operated by a ball and track control, a power button on the steering wheel turns the car on and the shift handle is designed to look like a joystick.

The finished product is still a long way off, but already the Haku is making a stir. It reflects a definite trend in automotive design- small and boxy. It’s designed to turn heads, like a Hummer that has been shrunk down to a useful size for navigating an urban environment. Its look is unforgettable. It makes Mom’s old Volvo look downright aerodynamic. It is a drastic departure from the sleek look we’ve come to expect from cars. The truth is, it is only one concept that Scion is looking at- we’ll see what happens in the future.

On the other hand, a quick look at coming car trends reveals a definite shift toward “boxiness.” From the Hummer to the Nissan Cube to the Scion Haku Coupe, to steal a line from Huey Lewis and the News, “It’s hip to be square.”

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