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Three pointed stars from Subaru

Split personalities: Subaru will separate its upcoming Impreza range into three distinct "characters", with the WRX and STi performance models being further differentiated.

Subaru’s radical small-car strategy unfolds as Impreza splits into three

2 May 2011

SUBARU will follow Nissan’s lead in splitting its coming Impreza small-car combatant into three distinct “characters” made up of mainstream, performance and lifestyle characters – with the latter being a Dualis-rivalling compact SUV based on the Shanghai motor show XV Concept.

However, while the naturally aspirated-only fourth-generation (G4) Impreza sedan and hatch that made their New York International Auto Show debut late last month are only about six months away from launch in Australia, the eagerly anticipated WRX and STI turbo cars are up 18 months from Subaru’s local dealerships, meaning the current performance models will solider on until late 2012 at the earliest.

The next-generation WRX and STI will sport completely different exterior sheetmetal – as well as significantly revamped chassis and drivetrain components – to live up to their standing as the company’s high-performance flagships.

As they will be the last of the new small-car range to be rolled out, the long-running performance and rally icons are expected to be the first to herald Subaru’s fresh styling direction.

As GoAuto has learned, this will move the Japanese firm’s look on from the chunky design language that debuted with the existing Liberty/Outback models in 2009.

2 center imageSubaru XV concept, Subaru Boxer concept a.k.a 'Subarota', Toyota FT-86 II concept.

As with the current G3 Impreza-based WRX and STI updates launched towards the end of last year – as well as the new XV that will slot beneath the Forester when it arrives in Australia sometime during 2012 – the ‘Impreza’ badge will remain only with Subaru’s Volkswagen Golf/Jetta rival.

“We announced at the last WRX launch that those models are now totally separate to the current Impreza range – in fact, the current cars don’t even carry those names at all,” said Subaru Australia corporate affairs manager David Rowley.

“There will be no turbo Impreza models at change time … those are totally separate to the mainstream range and form part of Subaru’s performance stable that includes the Liberty GT and Forester S Edition.”

Mr Rowley added that, while the G4 Impreza is still on track for a late 2011 release, Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster-related delays may push the launch date back to the first quarter of 2012.

The three-car small-car strategy is the result of Subaru’s redoubled efforts in tackling the fracturing C-segment market that now sees new and potentially very profitable niches developing.

It follows Nissan’s very successful global small car strategy that has resulted in the previously unloved Pulsar/Almera small car of the 1990s and mid-2000s dividing into the hot-selling Qashqai/Dualis and Note for Europe and the well-received (except in Australia) Tiida/Versa for Asia and the Americas.

This has been such a hit that Nissan has now done the same in the light-car segment, offering the Micra (mainstream), Cube (urbane) and Juke (super compact SUV) as its combined global B-segment offerings.

Citroen is also going down a similar path with the second-generation C4 hatch due in Australia soon, which has spawned a rebodied premium sports model known as the DS4.

Other new Subaru product on the horizon include an all-new Forester next year, followed by the next-generation Liberty and Outback in 2013, as the company sticks to its four-year model cycle program.

“We have discontinued our mini-car projects (in Japan) so we are now allocating more budget to our other passenger cars like the Impreza,” company president Ikuo Mori told the Australia media at the New York show last month.

“So it is now normal for us to have a four-year cycle. In the previous years we may have had five or six-year (cycles).”

The G4 Impreza’s project manager, Akihide Takeuchi, added that the fast-changing global small-car market forced Subaru’s hand in developing a newer, greener, higher-quality and more spacious offering against competition like the Golf and Ford Focus within a shorter timeframe than before.

Meanwhile, the chances of the upcoming Subarota/Toyabaru naturally aspirated rear-drive sports car (that will also be shared with Toyota) coming to Australia received a massive boost from the Subaru boss in New York.

“I want to see this car in Australia,” he said.

What’s coming from Subaru:G4 Impreza: Q4 2011
XV SUV: 2012
G4 Forester: 2012
G4 WRX/STI: 2012
Coupe: 2013

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