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Subaru diesels, hybrids, diesel hybrids ...

By Peter Nunn, 03 Jun 2009 News

Subaru diesels, hybrids, diesel hybrids ...

Subaru jumps in to the eco wars ... Peter Nunn reports from Japan.

As hybrid mania sweeps Japan, so it is Toyota's Prius and Honda's Insight that are leading the running.

But what about Subaru? The maker of the Liberty, Forester and Impreza has no hybrid to offer. Not yet, anyway, although it's shown advanced hybrid concepts before at the Tokyo Motor Show that have been truly state-of-the-art.

Instead, Subaru has let it be known that it's working on adapting Toyota's Prius-type hybrid system for its own line-up.

At one point, the Liberty was the prime candidate to go hybrid, but we now hear that's no longer the case. Subaru admits that research into developing a hybrid vehicle continues but has denied stories in the Japanese press linking Subaru to a hybrid launch in 2011. "No concrete date has yet been set," said a spokesman.

Similarly, reports that Subaru would launch its excellent clean Boxer diesel in Japan in 2011 have also been shot down by Subaru's PR dept in Tokyo.

"Yes, it's true we are working on adapting our clean diesel for the US and Japanese markets, including Australia, but no further details are available at this point," insisted the spokesman.

The slumping word markets and economic crisis have put severe strain on Subaru's bottom line. Both the diesel and hybrid technologies are expensive, hence Subaru's taking its time but a hybrid launch sometime around 2012, perhaps in the Forester, does seem reasonable if the situation improves.

Subaru to date has only offered its award winning 2.0-litre flat four turbodiesel in Europe. It would seem a natural for other major markets but again, cost is the issue.

On the eco front, Subaru does have its electric-powered Stella EV ready to go in Japan this summer, but for now, along with others, it can only watch and wait as the Prius and Insight dominate the eco airwaves in Tokyo.