Subaru - The Wheels Report 2014

A good listener that’s capitalising on solid groundwork. Settling in new arrivals key to Subaru’s 2015. Careful management also required to protect existing sales, but history suggests it will be a target easily achieved. Levorg wagon squaring up as welcome addition to slim but powerful range.

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RESULTS

A good listener capitalising on solid groundwork. Settling in new arrivals key to Subaru’s 2015. Careful management also required to protect existing sales, but history suggests it will be a target easily achieved. Levorg wagon squaring up as welcome addition to slim but powerful range.

Rank*: 9th
Sales*: 33,269 (+3.0%)
Forecast for 2014 : 39,000
Wheels prediction for 2014: 9th
*To end October 2014

LONG a favourite with private buyers, Subaru performs strongly within the narrow model range it has – its seven-model range is built off three platforms.

Where once it relied heavily on the Liberty sedan and wagon for a large chunk of sales, the stagnation of the medium car market has forced some lateral thinking. One solution was the Outback, a higher-riding version of the Liberty wagon that adds the obligatory body kit to make it look a bit tougher in the driveway.

But between them the Liberty and Outback are nothing like the sales powerhouses they once were, especially considering part of the Liberty volume is bolstered by the seven-seat Exiga, which gets a unique body but still uses the Liberty moniker.

Instead it’s the ever-popular Forester and the brilliantly positioned Impreza hatch-based XV – a higher riding Impreza that’s won hearts for its chunky looks – that have delivered growth for the Japanese brand.

The arrival of the BRZ sports car – which saw the end of Subaru’s all-wheel-drive-is-a-must philosophy – added some icing on a solid but tasty cake.

But at the same time Subaru has lost its seven-seat Tribeca, which quietly slinked off the market early in 2014.

OPPORTUNITIES

THE year ahead holds plenty of excitement for Subaru in terms of new arrivals.

It starts with the all new Liberty and Outback, which arrive in January with hopes of reviving some former sales glory in the medium segment. Each will be available with either a 2.5-litre four-cylinder or horizontally opposed 3.6-litre, the latter picking up Subaru’s “Lineartronic” continuously variable transmission. A diesel is expected later, too.

Perhaps more importantly, the new Liberty/Outback aren’t quite as, err, challenging in the styling department.

The Impreza facelift available overseas is also expected in Australia sometime during the year. The most notable change is a revised front bumper that adds more aggression, although you should get more features for your money. One is likely to be EyeSight, Subaru’s active safety system that can recognise a car stopping ahead and automatically brake the vehicle.

Similar tweaks are likely in the XV range, too.

One car Subaru is hoping it can get is the elegant Levorg wagon. To sit below the Liberty – it’s closer in size to Libertys of a decade ago – it could tempt some of the Subaru faithful back into the brand.

The Levorg is officially reserved for the Japanese market, but it’s understood Australia is hopeful of importing it here.

CHALLENGES

One advantage of a small model range is being able to commit more time to it, something Subaru has done well for years. But in 2015 it could face more competition than it has for a while.

In the small SUV segment, for example, the XV is king but it’ll soon be up against more formidable opposition from the likes of Mazda, Jeep and Honda.

That in turn could put pressure on the Impreza, which to be fair has plenty of volume potential.

When it comes to Subaru’s top seller, the Forester, there’s work to be done to defend the recently arrived Nissan X-Trail and Jeep Cherokee, as well as the soon-to-be-updated Mazda CX-5.

Mazda and Volkswagen both have aspirations of growth for 2015, and present Subaru’s strongest challenge.

Score: B+

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Toby Hagon
Journalist

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