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Diesel liberation for Subaru

Destined for diesel: Liberty will be among a number of Subarus to receive diesel power.

Liberty to lead Subaru diesel push as Fuji Heavy confirms engine program

Subaru logo7 Apr 2006

SUBARU Australia is expected to offer a diesel-powered Liberty within 18 months following confirmation of a turbo-diesel engine development program from parent company Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) last week.

FHI chief executive Kyoji Takenaka told overseas journalists that development work was well under way on the latest-generation common-rail diesel engine, which will be paired with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system in the Liberty and other vehicles.

Subaru Australia spokesman David Rowley said no firm specification details were as yet available for the new engine, nor its specific arrival date, but emphasised that "we’d love to have access to both diesel technology and hybrid technology".

GoAuto understands that the engine is likely to be 2.2 litres in displacement with between 250Nm and 300Nm on offer in a "boxer" flat-four configuration.

The diesel is also expected to find its way into other Subaru vehicles, including the Forester and new range-topping B9 4WD, the latter being launched at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney ahead of its release in November.

The petrol 3.0-litre B9 is likely to be offered in two variants as a five-seater or seven-seater with a high level of specification. Prices are expected to start around $60,000.

"There’s no reason theoretically why the B9 couldn’t get a diesel," Mr Rowley said.

Apart from the arrival of the B9, Subaru will launch a facelifted Liberty/Outback range in September and the GT Liberty will return to the range as well. The GT is expected to get the more refined 2.5-litre turbocharged four shared with the STi and WRX and a host of technology and safety upgrades.

The revised 2007 model-year Liberty GT meets Euro III emission requirements and, although Subaru will not confirm power figures, GoAuto understands it will offer close to 200kW. In the Impreza STi, the 2.5 develops 206kW/392Nm.

Mr Takenaka said FHI would bring the turbo-diesel engine to production at full throttle after agreeing last week to borrow Toyota Motor Corporation’s technology for hybrid cars. The hybrid technology is tipped to make an appearance in the next-generation Impreza range, which is due to be unveiled next year.

"Because we’re a small company, we had to choose between hybrid and diesel," Mr Takenaka told Reuters. “Now that we have this arrangement with Toyota, diesel engine development and production are going to be our priority." Subaru sold 62,049 cars in Europe last year and is struggling there because it does not have a diesel. By 2010, about half of Subaru’s European sales, projected at 100,000 vehicles by then, should be fuelled by diesel.

Mr Takenaka said that beyond 2010, he expected about a third of Subaru’s AWD models to be diesel.

He predicted the fuel-frugal powertrain would eventually account for 10 to 20 per cent of total car sales in Japan and the US. To reduce investment outlays, he said Subaru would build the engines on the same line as petrol engines – a task that was now possible thanks to the unique structure of the symmetrical AWD drivetrain.

2 center imageFHI has yet to decide how specifically to proceed in developing petrol-electric hybrid cars using Toyota technology. However, Mr Takenaka said those vehicles would come to market only after the diesel products.

Last year, Toyota took an 8.7 per cent stake in FHI, replacing General Motors as its biggest shareholder. Industry analysts are watching to see how far the new alliance will go, and whether Toyota will eventually boost its equity stake.

Mr Takenaka said he did not envisage Fuji becoming a full-blown member of the Toyota group, preferring to remain an independent partner like motorcycle-maker Yamaha, in which Toyota holds a 4.4 per cent stake.

"We’re a pretty stubborn bunch," the former engineer said. "We never managed to blend in with Nissan Motor Co or GM when we were allied with them. We’ll preserve our independence." However, Mr Takenaka conceded that FHI had much to learn from Toyota, mainly in reducing Subaru’s high production costs and speeding up vehicle development times.

What's coming from Subaru:
Liberty/Outback facelift September
2.5 Liberty GT September
B9 4WD November
Liberty diesel 2007
All-new Impreza 2007

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