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Ascent still on Subaru Australia’s radar

Power play: The Ascent is motivated by a 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine that pumps out 193kW of power at 5600rpm and 375Nm of torque from 2000rpm.

Subaru Australia keeps door open for Ascent seven-seater but no pick-up planned

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Subaru logo3 Jul 2018

By JUSTIN HILLIARD in JAPAN

SUBARU Australia has once again expressed its interest in the seven-seat Ascent large SUV, although it is still unlikely due to a lack of right-had-drive production, while a return to light-commercial vehicles (LCVs) has been ruled out.
 
Speaking to GoAuto last week at the fifth-generation Forester international media launch at the Cycle Sports Centre in Shizuoka, Japan, Subaru Australia managing director Colin Christie revealed that local plans for the US-built Ascent continue to be held up by availability.
 
“If things were to change and the Ascent became available (in right-hand drive), we’d take that tomorrow. I’ve looked at it and spent some time with it and it’s a good thing,” he said.
 
“We’re continuing to discuss with the factory about opportunities or options that could potentially get it into the Australian market.”
 
While Mr Christie conceded that the factory based in Lafayette, Indiana, does have a history of producing right-hand-drive vehicles, he stressed that a return to this state was not on the cards.
 
“We are aware that the Indiana plant made right-hand-drive Outback and Tribeca variants, but there is now so much demand from that plant that I can’t see it being possible, at least in the short term, for Ascent to be produced in right-hand drive,” he said.
 
“They have too much demand for left-hand-drive markets (and their models) to take away production for a relatively small right-hand-drive market (and a single model). We’d love to have it though.”
 
The aforementioned right-hand-drive Outbacks and Tribecas were produced for the US Postal Service, allowing their workers to drive directly alongside post and letterboxes.
 
When questioned if a different seven-seat model might become available in the future for right-hand-drive markets, such as Australia, Mr Christie reiterated that the demand for such an offering would not be large enough.
 
“I think the challenge is, (with any) big seven-seat car, we’d be the number-one-demand right-hand-drive market,” he said.
 
“Japan don’t have a big demand for big seven-seat SUVs, and a lot of the other markets are reasonably small (with) their demand, so it’s really us that would be the major demand for that car.”
 
When asked if the recently-introduced import tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium in the US could potentially force Subaru to shift Ascent production to another country, such as Japan, and open up the possibility of right-hand drive, Mr Christie had not considered the prospect.
 
“I haven’t thought about that, to be honest. I think while it’s getting built in the US that works from a US tariff point of view,” he said.
 
“The US market still gets cars out of Japan, as well. So, it’s a combination of roughly half coming from the US plant (while the other) half comes from the Japanese (factory).”
 
As previously reported, the Ascent was revealed at the Los Angeles motor show in November last year and is the successor to the Tribeca seven-seater that broke cover in January 2005.
 
Meanwhile, Mr Christie ruled out a return to LCVs with a new Brumby ute or a dedicated pick-up model, despite interest in such a move.
 
“Of course, we’d also love to have a pick-up, but that doesn’t mean another Brumby. I think the pick-up market has matured, and customers want a full-frame ute now,” he said.
 
“The reality is that it is not in the near future. A Brumby couldn’t be replicated in today's market because of safety requirements.
 
“So, for us as a brand, we know we couldn’t have another Brumby. Any talk of any ute is a long way off. There are no plans.”
 
Produced from 1978 to 1994, the Brumby featured a monocoque chassis shared with 1979-1984 Leone small wagon. As such, if the nameplate were to return, it could ride on the new Subaru Global Platform that now underpins the Ascent, Forester, XV and Impreza.
 
However, as mentioned, a robust ladder-frame chassis would be more preferable for a pick-up model, meaning Subaru may looks towards a joint-venture with a car-maker that already produces such architecture.

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