Are Subarus the best cars money can buy?
Subaru's latest models are winning the highest marks for quality and safety. Here's how the tiny, quirky, artisanal car maker does it.
By Alex Taylor III, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- By the usual measurements, Subaru should be no more than an afterthought in the U.S. car market. It sells just seven car and crossover models and accounts for a slim 2.3% of U.S. auto sales. By itself, the Toyota Camry outsells the entire Subaru lineup. For years Subaru has been essentially a regional brand -- strong in the Northeast and Northwest but unknown in the rest of the country. No overnight success, Subaru of America -- the U.S. arm of Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries -- began selling cars in the U.S. 44 years ago and still ranks only 12th in size. Hyundai and Kia, which arrived two decades later, have developed broader product lines and sell several times more vehicles.
Yet Subaru has racked up more endorsements by independent arbiters of automotive quality and safety than just about any other manufacturer. Consumer Reports rates Subaru above Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and every other manufacturer in performance, comfort, utility, and reliability, and says the company makes the best cars in America. ALG (formerly Automotive Lease Guide), the industry's arbiter of residual value and used-car prices, named Subaru the leader in retained value among mainstream brands. And after crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety made Subaru a top safety pick across its entire product line, a distinction no other manufacturer can claim.
Fueled by this trifecta of achievements, just about everything Subaru sells is flying off dealers' lots this year. Despite a chronic shortage of inventory, the company has been breaking monthly sales records with regularity, and sales for the year are up 26% compared with last year's -- nearly double the 14% gain for the industry as a whole. Hurricane Sandy struck right in the heart of Subaru's customer base, yet the little car company saw sales jump 30% in October, vs. the industry's 7%.
What Subaru has done is to make itself into the first automaker that could be described as artisanal -- focused, individualistic, and really good at a very few things. With only limited resources, Subaru has made smart bets on features like all-wheel drive, developed memorable marketing and advertising that set it apart from the competition, and learned more about its customers than any other automaker. In appealing to them by geography, lifestyle, and, at times, sexual orientation, it has built the deepest loyalty in the car business. The company understands itself so well that for years its advertising tag line was the self-referential It's what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.
So resilient is the appeal of its brand name that Subaru has managed the feat of stretching it over wildly different models. One of this year's fastest-selling cars has been Subaru's compact Impreza sedan and hatchback. Newly redesigned and with a base price under $18,000, it has young families and first-time buyers queuing up to take advantage of its improved fuel economy, updated styling, and roomier interior. Sales have doubled from a year ago, and dealers have less than a two-week supply. At the opposite end of the functionality spectrum is another red-hot seller, the Subaru BRZ. A modern interpretation of the classic sports car, the two-plus-two coupe features out-there styling and racetrack handling that appeal to men of a certain age. So many are going out the door at prices starting at $25,000 that the days' supply at the beginning of September had shrunk to 11.
It's unusual for any car company, let alone one as tiny as Subaru, to have two hit models at once.
Today Subaru finds itself in a market sweet spot that produces outsize profits because, like an NFL receiver, it has learned how to work the seams. In the overcrowded midsize segment, for instance, Subaru sidesteps heavyweights like Camry, Accord, and Altima by equipping the Legacy with all-wheel drive (AWD), which the others don't offer. It can dodge expensive incentives because its cars are in short supply and its relatively affluent buyers are less sensitive to promotions. In August, Subaru spent just $857 per car on incentives; only Porsche spent less. Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell says Subaru customers are generally capable of affording a more expensive vehicle, don't buy strictly on price, and continue shopping even when the economy takes a dive.
Even so, life isn't easy for Subaru or its corporate parent, Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries. They are minnows in an industry where size counts. Don't look in Subaru's lineup for any minicars the size of the Honda Fit or for full-size ones like the Toyota Avalon either. All Subaru cars and crossovers are based on just two platforms (General Motors (GM) has 30!), and the vehicles range in size only from subcompact to midsize. Subaru needed to form a partnership with Toyota (TM) to make the BRZ economical. Subaru did most of the engineering and provided the engine, but Toyota created the design and markets an almost identical version called the Scion FR-S.
Tom Doll, Subaru's top U.S. executive, in a Forester
Small size hurts when a new model like the awkward seven-passenger Tribeca fails to gain a foothold. It's also hard for a small car maker to keep on top of new technology. Subaru's signature four-cylinder boxer design is two decades old, and the company's first hybrid car won't come out until next year, 15 years afterToyota's Prius went on sale. Subaru suffered a near catastrophe when the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 closed factories in Japan for four weeks and interrupted the flow of parts to its sole U.S. plant, in Lafayette, Ind. Dealers were starved for cars. Used to operating with 32,000 cars on the ground, Subaru saw its inventories drop to 17,000, pummeling sales.
Subaru recovered but now faces fresh challenges. It needs to catch up with competitors by developing fuel-efficient powertrains across its lineup, opening more factories outside Japan to spread its currency risk, and expanding its U.S. sales footprint. And it has to keep looking over its shoulder. Fast-rising Volkswagen poached Subaru's top marketing executive a year ago, and according to industry reports, VW is considering a new crossover with ride height, bumpers, and wheel-arch cladding that takes dead aim at Subaru's most popular models.
So Subaru will have to find new ways to differentiate itself, which shouldn't be much of a stretch. Since its founding, it has always gone its own way. Its headquarters are in a New Jersey suburb, several thousand miles away from its Japanese competitors in Southern California. While former sales managers and marketing experts sit atop most import car companies, Subaru's highest American executive is an accountant who started at the company as an assistant treasurer. And Subaru's product history is studded with oddities like the BRAT, a mini-pickup with rear-facing jump seats bolted to the rear bed to circumvent a tariff known as the chicken tax; the Justy, whichTop Gear said manages the impressive feat of being as boring as its name promises; and the Baja, a station wagon, built with an open cargo bed in place of a rear compartment, which one reviewer compared to a platypus.
MORE: The Subaru BRZ - a sportscar in the classic mode
Subaru of America was started in 1968 by two entrepreneurs, Malcolm Bricklin and Harvey Lamm, who contracted with Fuji Heavy to import cars as the initial wave of Japanese imports was washing onto U.S. shores. Their first car was the 360, a minicar with a 25-horsepower engine that needed 37 seconds to get from zero to 50 miles per hour; Consumer Reports called it the Most Unsafe Car in America. But by selling distributorships, SOA went on to become the only import car company that was publicly traded; it made small fortunes for its two founders. Bricklin went on to build his own eponymous safety car, imported Fiats and Yugos, and was last seen trying to make a deal to import China-built Cherys.
Despite its rocky start, Subaru clung to its tiny niche like a freestyle rock climber on El Capitan. It introduced an AWD system in 1972 and continually upgraded its boxer engine. Its marketing and advertising cleverly exploited the brand's offbeat appeal. After it won the endorsement of the U.S. ski team in 1976, the company broadcast a commercial showing a Subaru driving up a snow-covered ski jump. Subaru was also a pioneer in reaching out to gays and lesbians, recently advertising on television shows like The L Word.
Still, its existence remained precarious. Subaru nearly collapsed in the 1980s when it tried to challenge Toyota, Honda, and Nissan in the mainstream car market with a lineup of sedans and sports cars sold under the slogan Inexpensive and built to stay that way. When the yen rose late in the decade, the price of made-in-Japan Subarus exploded, and its high-volume strategy collapsed. Its sales, which had peaked in 1986 at 183,242, fell all the way to 100,407 by 1995, and nobody would have been surprised if Subaru had left the U.S. market. (This year sales are expected to be 325,000.)
Subaru advertising has emphasized the cars' offbeat -- and off-the-road -- appeal.
Instead, it made two important decisions that continue to resonate today. It decided to equip all the vehicles it sold in America with all-wheel drive. It also created a high-trim version of its Legacy station wagon with SUV design cues, named it the Outback, and hired Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame as its spokesperson. Billed as the world's first sport-utility wagon, the Outback was slow to catch on, but its sales have grown fourfold since 1996. It has gradually morphed from a station wagon into a true crossover -- high roof, raised suspension, beefy bumpers -- but remains Subaru's biggest seller.
Subaru was becoming known as a quirky, likable product with a workaday attitude. But awareness and sales slipped throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, in part because Fuji had decided that Subaru's AWD technology deserved a premium price. Even though the Subaru brand was soundly locked in the Japanese mid-tier along with Mazda and Mitsubishi, Fuji felt that since its car was technically equivalent to an Audi, it should sell for a similar price. It took some convincing by American executives, but in 2007 the pricing was gradually readjusted, smoothing transactions on the sales floor and improving resale values. When the 2009 Forester was introduced, for instance, the base price was cut by $1,200.
Sales responded to the change almost immediately, and by 2010 Subaru had passed 260,000 vehicles a year. The repricing was a victory for executive vice president Tom Doll, a 30-year Subaru vet and its top American executive, who had long argued for the change. Methodical and even-keeled, Doll joined Subaru after five years at the old Big Eight accounting firm of Arthur Young, and rose steadily through the company in treasury operations, strategic planning, and finance. Doll knows Subaru so thoroughly that he now serves as both chief operating officer and chief financial officer -- an unusual doubling of responsibilities for an executive in an $8 billion company. He runs it by the book. We like to play it straight, he says. We don't goof around.
MORE: 7 cars that fit the Subaru personality
Under Doll, Subaru is executing a strategy of controlled expansion designed to boost unit sales and build profit margins. It has created an Outback-like version of the Impreza called the XV Crosstrek that it will sell for a premium price after raising the suspension and adding new bumpers and plastic body cladding. And it is giving its performance models, now known as the Impreza WRX and Impreza WRXSTI, standalone identities by dropping the Impreza name. The move should boost brand recognition in places like Southern California, where these high-horsepower cars with bulging hood scoops and flared stabilizer wings are Subaru's highest-profile vehicles, and also make it easier to justify the $8,000 price bump over the standard Impreza model.
Asked what's missing from his model lineup, Doll says a seven-passenger vehicle. In a rare misfire, Subaru put on sale the B9 Tribeca, a midsize crossover, in 2005. Aside from its unfortunate name, the Tribeca introduced what was intended to be a new design language with a rounded body and odd triangular grille. The B9 part of the name was dropped, and the ungainly design got a quick face-lift, but the Tribeca has never caught on. Doll blames its failure partly on the seven-passenger designation; the two seats in the third row aren't big enough to fit adults comfortably.
Doll is trying to expand Subaru's geographic base. He aims to generate 20% of sales in Sun Belt states in the next two years, up from 9% two years ago and 15% now. He has been scooping up former Saturn dealers, adding eight in the Carolinas and Florida. Subaru is shooting for a nationwide network of 630 dealers by 2015, compared with 620 today.
Subaru is slowly building its manufacturing capability in the U.S. At the Lafayette plant, it is investing $75 million in a 52,000-square-foot addition to the body-assembly section this summer. That will increase the plant's capacity to 180,000 vehicles a year, vs. 156,000 now.
With Subaru on a path to reach its U.S. sales goal of 320,000 units for 2012, Doll has mapped out a strategy that he expects will lead to sales of 350,000 units by 2016 while maintaining a market share of at least 2%. He's not changing his philosophy: The inventory of cars will remain tight. Subaru is currently running with a 45-day supply, compared with the 65 days that are considered optimal in the auto industry, and Doll plans to keep it that way. Inventory is the kiss of death and the root of all evil, he says, only half-jokingly.
His expansion plans are getting a boost from Fuji, which is crashing a program to modernize its technology with the aim of boosting fleet-wide fuel efficiency by 30% by 2015. It has introduced a third-generation boxer engine (Subaru's first entirely new engine in 20 years), and is developing hybrid powertrains and fuel-thrifty continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).
The success of the BRZ underlines one question mark about the future of Subaru that could be both an asset and a liability: its ties with Toyota. Besides designing the sports car and sharing space in the Indiana plant, Toyota owns 16.5% of Fuji Heavy, having doubled its stake in 2008. Further cooperation could give Subaru access to technology and speed its expansion into global markets. The risk, of course, is that the giant company would squeeze the individuality out of the smaller one. The partnership will be successful only if Toyota remembers what makes a Subaru a Subaru. It is a lesson that has taken Subaru a long time to learn and one that it has no intention of forgetting now.
This story is from the December 3, 2012 issue of Fortune.
Premier Subaru and Premier KIA are proud sponsors of the West Haven Apple Festival on Friday, October 12, 2012 through Sunday, October 14, 2012 on the West Haven Green.
The Apple Festival is one of the largest annual events in West Haven and is a key fundraiser for the First Congregational Church of West Haven.
Activities include a car show, craft vendors, food, rides, apple barrel, home-made baked goods and much more. In addition, there are bands throughout the event, including:
Hours are: Friday 10/12, 5:30 - 9:30
Tim Wrightington opening act with music from the 50's and 60's
Classic Car Show
Fools on A Hill (Beatles Music)
Saturday: 10:30 - 9:30
WHHS Dance Team
An't No Thing
Big Tom (The Ellwoods)
Top Hat Dance Studio
McCarthy Kids Band
Jimmy "D' Donegan
"Touch A Truck"
WHPD Canine Unit
Sunday: Noon - 7:00
Chris and Howie
John Ciambriello Band
We hope you join Premier Subaru and Premier KIA at the West Haven Apple Festival.
All-new 2013 Subaru BRZ Awarded IIHS 2012 TOP SAFETY PICK
- New Subaru BRZ sports car earned highest-possible rating in IIHS evaluations
- Subaru remains the only car manufacturer with 2012 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICKs for all models
CHERRY HILL, N.J., Sept. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Subaru of America, Inc. today announced that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has recognized the all-new 2013 Subaru BRZ as a 2012 TOP SAFETY PICK. Subaru remains the only manufacturer with 2012 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICKs for all models.
The all-new 2013 BRZ earned a "good" rating ? the top rank ? in the moderate overlap frontal, side, rollover and rear impact evaluations.
"With BRZ, Subaru has brought back the affordable sports car; and FHI engineering in the product has led not only to great driving fun but also top safety marks," said Thomas J. Doll, executive vice president and COO, Subaru of America, Inc. "We are passionate and uncompromising in our commitment to safety. Subaru is thrilled to continue as an industry leader in this area."
The TOP SAFETY PICK recognizes vehicles that, in IIHS testing, do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rear, and now rollover crashes based on 'good' ratings in each category. The IIHS ranks in terms of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor, with 'good' as the top rank possible in Institute tests. Winners also must have electronic stability control.
"For three years running, Subaru is the only automotive manufacturer with the distinction of earning IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK awards for every model it builds," said Institute president Adrian Lund. "It's tough to win, and we commend Subaru for making safety a top priority."
The Institute's frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of a moderate overlap frontal crash test. Each vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.
Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on 2-instrumented SID-IIs dummies representing a small (5th percentile) woman, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact.
Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry -- the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average size man. Seat/head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people.
In the roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against 1 side of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a good rating for rollover protection, the roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle's weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. This is called a strength-to-weight ratio. For an acceptable rating, the minimum required strength-to-weight ratio is 3.25. A marginal rating value is 2.5. Anything lower than that is rated poor.
For the first time, Subaru earned the top score in Consumer Reports' automaker report cards
>> Click here to read the full article on Consumer Reports Website.
Subaru Releases New 2013 Outback and Legacy Digital Brochures
- Digital Brochures now available via newly-launched Subaru Dynamic Brochure Facebook Tab
- 2013 Subaru iPad apps will soon arrive at iTunes store for go-anywhere, interactive experience
CHERRY HILL, N.J., July 31, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Subaru of America, Inc. has announced the release of its Dynamic Digital Brochures for the 2013 Outback and Legacy vehicles, with the iPad® applications soon to follow. The brochures can be downloaded now at Subaru.com and under a new tab on the Subaru Facebook page. The 2013 Outback and Legacy Digital Brochure iPad® apps will soon join other Subaru iPad applications currently available for free download at the iTunes® store.
(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120731/PH49876 )
(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20080325/SUBARULOGO )
"As innovations change the ways consumers receive information, Subaru continues to provide highly informative and interactive experiences from almost anywhere through the convenience of a desktop PC, laptop or iPad®," said Subaru Brochures Manager Sondra Shiffer.
Inside the virtual pages, consumers can:
- learn about the newest SUBARU BOXER® engine offered in both models
- discover a demonstration of the improved fuel efficiency from the refined Lineartronic® CVT
- watch videos of the new EyeSight® driver-assist technology that helps make a safe Subaru even safer
They also highlight the new Navigation System features, Symmetrical AWD capabilities, and include vibrant, detailed 360-degree views of the restyled exterior and interior where consumers can experiment with color choices and interior trims.
The 2013 Subaru iPad® apps and Dynamic Digital Brochures continue the commitment of environmentally friendly practices by reducing paper usage, energy consumption, inks and production waste. Beyond the environmental benefits, they offer consumers additional ways to compare models, experience the Subaru brand and share their experience.
Consumers will find these free downloads at:
News Release Issued: July 3, 2012 11:33 AM EDT
Subaru of America, Inc. Breaks June Sales Record
- June marks seventh consecutive month of sales gains for the brand
- June sales increase 40 percent over prior month
- Subaru year-to-date sales are up 24 percent
CHERRY HILL, N.J., July 3, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Subaru of America, Inc. today reported record sales for June 2012 of 27,702 vehicles, a 40 percent gain over June 2011. The company also reported year-to-date sales of 164,304 ? a 24 percent gain over prior year.
June sales for the all-new 2012 Impreza continue to climb. Sales for the 36 MPG all-wheel drive Impreza are up 146 percent over June 2011. Outback and Legacy models also enjoyed 17 and 12 percent month-over-month gains, respectively.
"Subaru is celebrating the half-year mark with another month of consecutive sales gains," said Thomas J. Doll, executive vice president and COO, Subaru of America, Inc. "Our brand is poised for a record-breaking summer and another record-breaking year."
"Consumers value reliability, safety, fuel efficiency and performance; car shoppers are turning to Subaru because we deliver on those values," said Bill Cyphers, senior vice president of sales, Subaru of America, Inc. "A seventh consecutive month of sales gains clearly indicates that our line-up of sedans and crossover vehicles ? and our new BRZ sports car ? are hitting the sweet spot for consumers."
About Subaru of America, Inc.
Subaru of America, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. of Japan. Headquartered in Cherry Hill, N.J., the company markets and distributes Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive vehicles, parts and accessories through a network of more than 600 dealers across the United States. All Subaru products are manufactured in zero-landfill production plants and Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. is the only U.S. automobile production plant to be designated a backyard wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. For additional information visit www.subaru.com.
PREMIER SUBARU PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THE ARRIVAL OF THE 2013 SUBARU BRZ
May 8, 2012 - Premier Subaru, one of America's largest Subaru dealerships, located in Branford, Connecticut (06405 for those using GPS navigation) is pleased to announce the Subaru BRZ.
The buzz has been building, the customer order accumulating and the press has been praising and now it is time for the Subaru BRZ to take center stage.
Engineers at Fuji Heavy Industries developed BRZ to be the best handling, lightweight sports car in the world. BRZ represents the engineering soul of Subaru. The BRZ is the finest example of a classic sports car in the market today. Like all other Subaru models, the BRZ offers outstanding value. It starts with a new Subaru Boxer 2.0L DOHC engine that combines direct and port fuel injection with a Dual Active Valve control system to produce 200 hp without a turbo charger. Its low engine placement, well tuned Electric Power Assisted Steering, a sport-tuned - fully independent suspension, Torsen Limited Slip differential, rear wheel drive and 215/45/R17 summer performance tires provide a pure sports car experience.
USA Today says (March 30, 2012) BRZ is exotic and affordable; and oh, please more like this. Not only is BRZ a graceful coupe, it is also a knockout on the street, yanking heads around in double takes. BRZ has a nifty row of switches and a sweet interior.
Wall Street Journal - (March 24, 2012) The BRZ is a handful of sports coupe sunshine that does something brilliant, even revolutionary; it feels fast...clever design choices, from the engine to the tires, make the highly fun BRZ driver like a far speedier car...The BRZ is an absolute riot to drive.
Premier Subaru is proud to have one of the largest available allocations of this limited production sports coupe.
Subaru of America Announces Pricing for 2013 BRZ - All-new Sports Car starts at $25,495
Subaru of America, Inc. today announced pricing for its much-heralded 2013 BRZ, starting at $25,495 for the Premium model with a six-speed manual transmission. The six-speed automatic version starts at $26,595.Premium models come standard with touch-screen GPS Navigation, Bluetooth® connectivity and HID headlamps. Above the well-appointed Premium model, Limited models add Alcantara seat inserts with leather bolsters, heated seats and mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control system, fog lights, Keyless Access & Start and body-color decklid spoiler. Limited models come equipped with leather seats and start at $27,495 when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and $28,595 for automatic versions.
SUBARU OF AMERICA REPORTS RECORD SALES FOR APRIL, 2012
May 2, 2012 - Subaru of America, Inc. today reported record sales for April 2012 of 26,310 vehicles, a six percent gain over April 2011. The company also reported year-to-date sales of 106,878, a 16 percent gain over prior year.
Year-to-date sedan sales for the brand have also increased with the all-new Impreza up 157 percent over prior year and Legacy sales up 12 percent.
Subaru sales have exceeded 100,000 in four months ? a first in our company's 44 year history, said Thomas J. Doll, executive vice president and COO, Subaru of America, Inc. With new vehicle introductions on the horizon, we expect 2012 to be another banner year for our brand.
More people than ever are shopping the Subaru brand, said Bill Cyphers, senior vice president of sales, Subaru of America, Inc. The all-new Impreza continues its very strong launch and we are working to match demand with supply. This positive sales momentum will certainly continue throughout the year.
Premier Subaru & Premier KIA to Sponsor The 29th Annual University of New Haven Scholarship Ball
Branford, CT - Premier Subaru and Premier KIA have collectively announced that they will sponsor the 29th annual University of New Haven Scholarship Ball. The ball will be held on Saturday, April 21, 2012 on the main campus of the University of New Haven.
Each year, the University of New Haven Scholarship Ball celebrates the accomplishments of distinquished alumni and raises much needed funds for deserving students who otherwise would not be able to pursue a college education.
The 2010 Scholarship Ball raised more than $860,000 to support scholarships and the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science.
Additional information on the University of New Haven Scholarship Ball can be found by clicking this link.
Subaru Begins Production Of The 2013 Subaru BRZ
March 16, 2012 Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the manufacturer of Subaru automobiles, announced that it held a line-off ceremony at Subaru's Gunma Main Plant (Ota-city, Gunma Prefecture, Japan) with Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) President Akio Toyoda and honored guests in attendance, in commemoration of the production start of the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86.
FHI and TMC first agreed on business collaboration in Oct. 2005. After the companies expanded their cooperative ties with new agreements related to development and production in April 2008, they then began four years of development. The completion of this joint-development product also marks a great achievement of the alliance between FHI and TMC.
At the ceremony, TMC President Akio Toyoda said, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the ceaseless efforts of all FHI people and staff who were involved in the development, production and preparations for both models. The Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 would not have been successfully developed without collaboration between FHI and TMC. We started the alliance for mutual growth in 2005 and now I'm delighted to see that our alliance surely bore fruit.
FHI President Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, after extending his gratitude to all participants at the ceremony, said, The car symbolizes our corporate strategy in two significant aspects: good progress of our alliances; and advancement of our 'select and focus' approach. The start of production today made a huge step for us, but it is not our goal. By constantly refining both models, TMC and FHI hope to nourish each model to be loved by customers all over the world for a long time to come.
Subaru Gunma Main Plant, where minicars were previously manufactured, was recently renewed for the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 production. FHI plans to produce the Impreza at the same plant by March 2013.
FHI offers Enjoyment and Peace of Mind to its customers through the Subaru brand statement Confidence in Motion and its consistent approach to Engineering Excellence.
Following very positive reviews, the highly anticipated BRZ goes on sale in the United States, spring 2012.
Premier Subaru to Accept Preorders on All New Subaru BRZ
Premier Subaru in Branford, Connecticut, one of America's largest Subaru dealerships, as well as a Subaru Stellar Care Dealer, has announced that it is taking preorders on the all-new 2013 Subaru BRZ.
The all-new 2013 Subaru BRZ is expected to arrive in May, 2012. The car will be a very limited production vehicle for Subaru, with less than 6,000 units nationally for the 2013 model year. Premier Subaru has commtted the internal resources to ensure that the dealership is a leader in BRZ sales and support.
About the 2013 Subaru BRZ
The recent sports car trend has been to focus on ultimate power, luxury and performance. As a result, many sports cars have grown heavier and more expensive. Seeking a pure sports car for road and track driving Subaru followed a purist approach to engineering the 2013 BRZ.
Using a large proportion of high-tensile steel, with aluminum for the hood, the 2013 Subaru BRZ weighs an estimated 2,762 pounds for the U.S production models, making it the lightest closed rear-wheel drive sports car in the U.S. market today. Comparing the BRZ to a few notable current sports cars, the BRZ weighs about 160 pounds less than the Porsche Cayman, about 300 pounds less than the Lotus Evora and is more than 500 pounds lighter than a Hyundai Genesis coupe.
Critical to its agile handling, the Subaru BRZ has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car in the world at just 18.1 inches. The Subaru BOXER engine design, with its inherently low height and its mass concentrated low in the package, contributes to a low center of gravity in all Subaru models. For the BRZ, Subaru took maximum advantage of this characteristic. A rear-wheel drive configuration allows placement of the engine lower and farther back in the BRZ than in any other Subaru model in order to attain the best possible center of gravity and polar moment of inertia. Compared to the all-new Subaru Impreza, for example, the BRZ's BOXER engine sits 9.5 inches farther back. Moving the engine closer to the center of the chassis also helped make the BRZ itself quite compact, at just 166.7 inches long on a 101.2-inch wheelbase.
The all-new Subaru FA-Series 2.0-liter Boxer engine was engineered specifically for the BRZ to help achieve the car's ultra-low center of gravity package. The engine was made more compact than the FB 2.0-liter Impreza engine by such means as developing a shorter intake manifold and a shallower oil pan. Compared to the FB 2.0-liter engine in the Subaru Impreza, the engine in the BRZ is mounted about 2.4 inches lower, but due to the engine's lower overall height it sits 5 inches lower overall. In addition, under-hood components were located to optimize the car's balance, including tilting the radiator back 17 degrees and moving the battery to the back of the engine compartment.
All-new 200-Horsepower BOXER Engine
The Subaru BRZ is powered by an all-new FA-Series BOXER engine that is not shared with other Subaru models. Fundamental to true sports car character, the 2.0-liter engine combines light weight with high strength, high compression and high-revving responsiveness. The 4-2-1 exhaust exits with dual outlets, and the system has been tuned for a throaty sound. Directing some of the intake sound into the cabin also adds to the performance-tuned feeling of the car.
The Subaru BRZ engine has a true square architecture, meaning that its bore and stroke dimensions are each the same, in this case 3.38 inches (86mm). That gives the BRZ engine a quick-revving nature, with a 7,400-rpm redline. Yet, the engine's broad torque curve, which peaks at an estimated 150 lb.-ft. and offers a strong midrange, makes the BRZ feel responsive in daily driving.
The Subaru BRZ BOXER engine employs the Toyota D-4S fuel injection system, which uniquely combines direct injection and port injection technology. A direct-type fuel-injection system, which sprays fuel directly into the combustion chambers rather than upstream into the ports, provides a cooling effect in the cylinders. That enables use of a very high compression ratio (12.5:1 for the Subaru BRZ engine) to extract maximum energy from the fuel. In light- and medium-load conditions, the system's port fuel injectors help produce precise combustion, increasing performance and efficiency.
Choice of Six-Speed Transmissions
The driving enthusiast can choose between a new six-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic transmission in the 2013 Subaru BRZ. Both transmissions have been engineered and tuned to maximize performance and driving feel. The six-speed manual presents the driver with a short-throw shift lever, and the pedals have been optimized for heel-and-toe downshifting. Triple-cone synchronizers on first through third gears help ensure durability. Clutch effort and pedal rake, as well, have been tuned to make this an ideal sports car manual shift.
The optional paddle-shift six-speed automatic transmission offers no-compromise performance in the Subaru BRZ. The driver can select Sport mode from a switch on the center console for quicker, firmer automatic shifts. Or, the driver can move the console mounted shifter from D to M and then shift manually using the shifter handle or the steering wheel paddle shifters. Downshift blipping control enhances the more direct sports car experience.
All-New Subaru Platform
The Subaru BRZ is built on an entirely new platform and shares just a few parts with other Subaru models, but shares suspension architecture with the new Impreza and WRX STI. Effective use of high-tensile steel in the car's upper structure contributes to its low center of gravity. Chassis tuning takes maximum advantage of the BRZ's ultra-low center of gravity and high-strength body structure.
The front suspension uses struts and coil springs to keep weight low. The front struts were mounted low and optimized for a low hood line while retaining a long stroke for ideal handling and ride quality. The new, exclusively designed double-wishbone rear suspension system provides outstanding bump absorption to enhance tire grip over varied surfaces. Electric power steering, which reduces weight and load on the engine compared to hydraulic power steering, has been tuned for excellent feedback. The quick 13:1 steering ratio and 14.4-inch diameter steering wheel endow the Subaru BRZ with extremely quick steering response.
The BRZ, like all current Subaru models, employs the brand's proven Ring Shaped Reinforcement Frame body structure for occupant safety. Giving the BRZ a stiff body structure and ultra-low center of gravity allowed Subaru to tune the suspension for both agility and compliant ride quality. That tuning, along with the car's low weight, allowed Subaru to specify 215/45R17 tires that reduce wheel/tire weight and therefore unsprung weight. A standard TORSEN® limited-slip differential helps the inside wheel maintain traction during hard cornering. For track driving, the standard Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) stability and traction system offers the driver five different settings.
Design: Thoroughly Modern Sports Car Meets Classic GT
The Subaru engineering that yields the ultra-low center of gravity in the BRZ also made it easy for designers to craft a very low-slung coupe body. A low height of just 50.6 inches, combined with a swept-back roofline, bulging front fenders, short overhangs and pronounced rear haunches give the BRZ a decidedly lean, athletic stance. There is some homage to classic GT-type sports cars without resorting to retro design cues. At the same time, the car's hawk eye headlights, hexagonal lower grille and six-star ornament instantly convey Subaru identity.
The Subaru BRZ subscribes to a simple, elegant approach to interior design, with a focus on driver involvement through easy-to-use controls. The bolstered front sport seats were designed just for this car. The driver faces an easy-to-see instrument panel featuring a large, center-mounted tachometer with an analog speedometer to its left. The tachometer integrates a digital speedometer, and the fuel and temperature gauges are positioned to the right of the tachometer.
The one-piece rear seatback lowers to expand the space offered in the 6.9 cubic-foot trunk. With the seatback down, the cargo area can hold two standard golf bags. Drivers who enjoy slalom or track events can also fold the rear seatback and have room for four wheels, a helmet and basic supplies and still have room for the front passenger. The rear seats can accommodate front-facing child seats.
Production of the Subaru BRZ is conducted at Subaru's Gunma, Japan assembly plant. Subaru produces a full line of all-wheel drive sedans, crossovers and SUV's, and adding the BRZ sports car to its portfolio showcases the brand's penchant for engineering vehicles that offer excellent road manners.
Premier Subaru is located at 150 North Main Street (Route 1) in Branford, Connecticut. Premier Subaru is approved by the AAA for Automotive Repairs and Service and is A+ Rated by the BBB.
Subaru tops Consumer Reports' new ranking of best automakers
March 1, 2012 - Subaru edged Mazda, Toyota and Honda to earn the highest score in Consumer Reports' latest report card ranking 13 automakers based on road tests and reliability. But Toyota dominated the magazine's top picks in five of 10 product segments, becoming the first automaker to do so in nearly a decade.
The magazine said Subaru, with an overall score of 75, two points higher than last year, benefited from the redesigned Impreza, Legacy and Outback models over the past few years.
Subaru was followed by Mazda, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Volvo, Hyundai, BMW and Volkswagen.
The top four automakers were each separated by a point, with Subaru on top, Mazda second with an overall score of 74, Toyota third with 73 and Honda fourth with 72.
Chrysler placed last with an overall score of 51.
The magazine's annual report card ranks automakers based on the performance, comfort, utility and reliability of more than 275 vehicles recently tested.
The report -- part of a guide to manufacturers that produce the best all-around models -- will be published in the magazine's April issue.
Overall scores are based on the average road test scores and reliability ratings of models tested by the magazine.
While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots, their lead is shrinking. In some of Honda's and Toyota's recently redesigned models, cost-cutting has become more noticeable, David Champion, senior director of the magazine's automotive test center, said in a statement.
Ford's big drop
Ford dropped the most, from fifth to 10th place. Ford was followed by Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Chrysler, the magazine said.
Subaru's average road-test score -- 82 -- is the highest in Consumer Reports' analysis. The magazine recommends all of the Subaru models it has tested.
Honda, the winner for the past four years, has been hurt by several redesigned vehicles -- including the Civic and Odyssey minivan -- that didn't measure up to previous models, the magazine said.
Honda, however, still produces some of the most reliable vehicles on the road overall, Consumer Reports said.
For the second time in three years, Honda failed to place a model among the magazine's top vehicles in its class. In 2003, the Honda Accord, Civic, Pilot and Odyssey were named best in their segments by the magazine.
Toyota -- among the top three automakers for the fifth straight year -- still produces many vehicles with above-average reliability and high test scores. Toyota benefited from the redesigned 2012 Camry sedan and led the magazine's top picks in five of 10 market segments: family sedan, small SUV, green car, family SUV and family hauler.
Mazda most improved
Mazda showed the biggest improvement, rising to second from seventh place. Its overall score increased nine points.
An improved Mazda3 and the discontinuation of two older models -- the Tribute SUV and RX-8 sports car -- helped Mazda.
Ford's road-test score improved two points from 2011, but subpar reliability on some new models hurt the automaker. The magazine cited the troublesome MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission.
GM and Chrysler are building nicer cars with each redesign. Still, their scores are dragged down by several older designs that score low in Consumer Reports testing or have reliability issues, Champion said.
As more new products are introduced, their fortunes could change if they can improve their overall reliability.
Chrysler's overall score jumped eight points, making it the second-most-improved automaker. Chrysler's average road-test score also increased eight points, the most of any automaker, and its overall reliability improved to average, the magazine said.
The gains reflect Chrysler's extensively freshened and redesigned model lineup, though the magazine said it only recommends 26 percent of the Chrysler Group models tested.
Volvo posted the top score of any European automaker, reflecting the redesigned S60 sedan. But average reliability and subpar test scores kept Volvo from making further progress.
Redesigned versions of some of VW's best-selling models, notably the Jetta and the Passat, dropped in Consumer Reports' road-test scores.
The Jetta once provided an upscale alternative to more common small cars, but its new interior is stingy and handling is lackluster, eroding that advantage, the magazine said. The Passat has evolved from a sportier mid-sized sedan to a larger, more mundane, less sophisticated car. The change has brought mixed results.
The revamped Audi A6 and A8, however, posted big gains in the magazine's road tests.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz receive high scores in Consumer Reports road tests but were hurt by the reliability of some popular models. Mercedes' flagship S-class sedan joined the automaker's large GL SUV with subpar reliability, the magazine said.
The reliability of some turbocharged Mini Coopers and the redesigned 5-series sedan hurt BMW's grade, the magazine said.
The magazine said Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Porsche and Suzuki were excluded from the report because of a lack of reliability data, which are compiled from subscribers.
The magazine, citing market changes and other factors, said it also did not select a top pick among minivans, luxury sedans or budget/subcompact vehicles this year. It also did not select a best overall vehicle.
Subaru Driver David Higgins Extends Rally America Championship Points Lead with Second Place Finish at the 2012 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood
February 28, 2012 - Subaru of America, Inc. Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins, the defending Rally America National Champion, has significantly extended his 2012 championship points lead with a second place finish at The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. Higgins' two primary season-long rivals failed to finish the event thus providing even more impact to Higgins' second place points-haul.
The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, round two of the 2012 Rally America National Championship included over 100 miles of extremely fast and flowing gravel roads that traversed the foothills of Missouri's Ozark Mountains. Higgins, joined by co-driver Craig Drew, competed in a BFGoodrich Tires-shod 2012 Subaru WRX STI rally car.
Higgins began the event with a three-way duel with Antoine L'Estage, his archrival in the Rally America Championship, and Ken Block, a five-time winner of the 100 Acre Wood Rally. The trio was separated by just seconds after running the first three stages when L'Estage exited the rally with a mechanical problem, leaving just Block and Higgins in a fierce battle at the front of the field. Dry conditions meant this year's edition of the 100 Acre Wood Rally was an extremely dusty affair, and Higgins was slowed considerably by hanging dust as the winds dissipated on the evening stages. Higgins ended the first day of competition 18 seconds adrift of Block.
With Higgins' chief championship rival L'Estage out of the event and mindful that Block is not committed to running the full Rally America Championship, Higgins took the measured approach to find a balance between catching Block and driving prudently enough to ensure a solid finish which would net valuable championship points towards retaining the title. Higgins capitalized on a tire puncture that Block suffered on day-two and was able to close the gap to briefly take over the lead. The rival drivers were separated by just over 12 seconds heading into the final two evening stages of the rally. A final push by Higgins wasn't possible though, as Higgins, running behind Block on the road, encountered Block's hanging dust and was forced to slow considerably and eventually accepted a solid second place overall finish.
The pace here was just amazing, explained Higgins. It was a great battle and ultimately I'd like to have been able to win but Ken [Block] is very fast here, and it simply became a matter of safety to push too much in the dust. However, this result is huge for our championship defense since Antoine [L'Estage] and Leo [Urlichich] didn't finish. We now have a very good cushion atop the standings and our Subaru will excel on the more technical gravel roads in the upcoming events.
Added James Han, motorsports marketing manager for Subaru of America, Inc., David and [co-driver] Craig [Drew] confirmed the pace capable from our Subaru WRX STI and drove a smart rally to consolidate our championship points position under very challenging driving conditions. Both David and Ken [Block] put on an incredible performance for spectators this weekend.
Higgins and Subaru Rally Team USA head next to the Oregon Trail Rally, May 4-6, 2012 based in Portland, Oregon.
Subaru Impreza Wins 2012 MotorWeek Driver's Choice Award for Best Compact Car
February 10, 2012 - Subaru of America, Inc. was awarded the 2012 MotorWeek Drivers' Choice Award for Best Compact Car at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show.
The award comes on the heels of strong sales results from Subaru. The brand set a sales record in 2011 and has started 2012 with sales up 21% over the previous year.
It is an honor to receive the award for best compact car from MotorWeek, Thomas J. Doll, executive vice president and COO, Subaru of America, Inc. We are very excited about the all-new Impreza and we feel it is a game-changer for Subaru in the compact segment. In fact, Impreza sales in January were up 175-percent. We are pleased to bring our customers a car that packages safety, fun and function.
All new for 2012, the Subaru Impreza is equipped as standard with Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Powered by a 148-hp 2.0-liter Boxer engine, the 2012 Impreza comes with a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or the enhanced, second-generation Lineartronic® CVT (continuously variable transmission). The 2012 Impreza offers the highest fuel economy of any all-wheel drive car in America, with EPA ratings of 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway for models with the CVT.
With its 2012 re-design, we think the Subaru Impreza is primed for prime time, said John Davis, MotorWeek host. No other compact comes close to the Impreza's mix of standard all-wheel-drive, upscale interior, and near bargain pricing. Add in a fun-to-drive steering feel, plus a big jump in fuel economy, and you've got a four-season winner.
2013 SUBARU BRZ SPORTS CAR TO MAKE DEBUT
The 2013 BRZ, which arrives in Subaru dealerships in late spring, was designed with one goal in mind---exceptional handling. To reach that goal, Subaru engineers developed a chassis that would deliver the lowest center of gravity (CoG) possible utilizing the excellent packaging of the brand's Boxer engine design.
An all-new naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower horizontally opposed (Boxer) engine was created. The new FA engine was developed to be more compact so that it could be placed lower and farther back in the chassis. To achieve the low CoG, a rear-drive layout was deemed necessary so the engine could be mounted as low as possible in the chassis. The engine placement allows for low polar moment and near-perfect balance for pure sports car handling.
With a low vehicle weight of just over 2,700 lbs., the direct injected 2.0-liter provides quick acceleration as it revs to its 7,400 RPM redline. The Subaru BRZ is available with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
With a height of just 50.6 inches, swept-back roofline, bulging front fenders, short overhangs and pronounced rear haunches give the sleekly styled BRZ a lean, athletic stance. The Subaru BRZ will offer everyday comfort and practicality with 2+2 seating and expandable trunk space, along with the brand's renowned safety and quality.
The 2013 Subaru BRZ reflects the brand's core powertrain and chassis engineering throughout.
Subaru produces a full line of all-wheel drive sedans, crossovers and SUV's, and adding the BRZ sports car to its portfolio showcases the brand's penchant for engineering vehicles that offer excellent road manners.