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New York show: Subaru grows Outback’s role

Crossover: Subaru's current Outback (pictured) will be replaced inside 12 months by a new-generation version.

Yet-to-be-revealed new Outback to take on greater importance for Subaru

28 Mar 2014

SUBARU Australia says it will have a strong opportunity to substantially boost sales of its Liberty-based Outback crossover SUV when the new-generation model arrives in the first quarter of 2015.

The latest iteration of Subaru’s high-riding staple, which makes its world premiere at the New York motor show next month, will stay true to the ‘wagon- on-stilts’ formula of its predecessor while retaining its tough and rugged styling cues.

Its dimensions will also grow over the current model, if the increase in size of its Liberty sedan sibling is any guide. This move is likely in part a reaction by Subaru to its growing presence in the United States, where size remains king.

The new Outback will also play a markedly more important role in Subaru’s global line-up than the current version, with the Liberty wagon expected to be axed along with its Exiga derivative for the next-generation, and the Tribeca already canned without a replacement in sight.

With the SUV market still powering along in Australia, Subaru’s local managing director Nick Senior said the company would focus on taking advantage of the resulting “upside” to the Outback’s potential sales.

“I think the love affair with SUVs is going to continue, and I think for us the XV and Forester are performing strongly, (but) I think we’ve still got some upside with Outback,” he said.

“Outback has got a little bit of uniqueness. There’s not a lot of direct competitors, so we see that as a bit of an opportunity for that car. So that’s where a lot of the focus will be.” The new-generation model’s role in Subaru’s local range will drastically increase from launch, as the company consolidates – shrinks – its range of SUVs and large wagons and places more emphasis on Outback.

Subaru is not expected to offer a traditional wagon version of its new-generation Liberty, premiered in sedan guise in Chicago last month. This also renders the future of its Exiga people-mover derivative murky at best.

Furthermore, Subaru late last year announced the death of its larger, taller Tribeca seven-seat SUV, which it axed after sluggish sales in North America. Australian dealers are clearing their stocks, and offering deals to do so.

The current Outback has struggled for sales in 2014, down 31 per cent with 303 units sold to the end of February.

While not really a rival to the family-friendly Toyota Kluger and its ilk, the Outback competes alongside it in the large SUV segment, according to industry database VFACTS.

As reported, the Outback wagon is expected to be joined in Australia by the smaller and more road-oriented Levorg sports tourer around the middle of 2015.

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