Subaru Spooks

Industry observers might be forgiven for thinking that life at Subaru is dull. They would be wrong. Died in the wool petrol heads many times lamented the trading of the old ‘boy-racer’ image so ably advanced by Prodrive. Those same enthusiasts can now recover their composure especially if they are heading anywhere near Tokyo next week for what is undoubtedly the most significant parade of new metal for the South Asian market. Those of us confined for the moment to the Western hemisphere can also take heart.

We are to be treated, we hear, to the first sighting of the innovative LEVORG ,a word selected from an amalgam of hitherto familiar Subaru names – Legacy, Revolution, and Touring – in no particular order. Its newly developed 1.6 litre boxer DIT direct injection motor is bound to pep up matters under the bonnet. The Japanese market will be the first beneficiaries of course and European power fiends will have to wait a little while yet before getting hands on the meatier of the proposed offerings to be powered by the new 2 litre turbo derivative of this same motor. Pictures of the LEVORG are few on the ground at the moment but torque ,to whom we are frequently indebted can help the over-curious.

The 43rd Tokyo extravaganza promises even more delectation from Subaru however. We have the all-new 2015 VRX STI which promises to marry sheer boy racer appeal with a few bespoke refinements and not just down to a price. The idea behind the market strategy is to attract more new customers to Subaru and not merely to position the brand in a way which will send it only the WRC gold magnesium alloy brigade and the Berwick upon Tweed farmer with his clapped out four-by-four. Things, we can confidently assert, are moving on swiftly.

But what of production? Where are the cars to be produced to satiate what is hoped to be a much bigger global market? In this market Subaru remains but a minnow.The history of link-ups – facilitating unions to the advantage of Renault groom and Nissan bride – has not always ploughed that much direct benefit back to Subaru. Introducing Nissan to Renault at a party, great though that was for the happy couple in question, did not pay much in dividend to the match maker.Things have been altogether more propitious for Subaru’s current majority shareholder,Toyota, its 2005 suitor. Many have been writing off Subaru USA for some time but it has still continued to churn out Camrys at its Indiana plant and output of these, at the time of writing, shows no sign of tailing off.The Indiana facility produces 170,000 Subarus per annum alongside 100,000 Camrys for the majority shareholder. Pessimists comment wryly that this means 100,000 fewer Legacies for Subaru but the view on the factory floor is different. For that matter the top brass regard this juxtaposition as of benefit; they can get as much manufacturing intelligence from observing the way a Camry is fitted up by Toyota in Indiana as they ever could from buying one and dismantling it bit by bit. Ford of Dagenham went to these lengths in 1960 with the BMC Mini. Now you just need to look at your own production line down which your partner’s cars are rolling. So how much of Toyota’s know-how is ending up in these astonishing new turbos for ’14/’15? The Press Dept in Swindon is understandably coy on this vexed question but it is clear that head office in Japan is perfectly happy with matters as they stand at Indiana. Talk of Subaru’s departure from that location is unquestionably premature.It is too good an insight into Toyota production methods to miss……spooks come home to a good reception at Subaru -especially when all sides are happy.

So no longer the dumb gooseberry at the party.

NB – Done as a comment on Subaru market positioning and strategy for industry watchers. Research assisted by http://www.torque to whose authors the present blogger is indebted.


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