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Late 2009 for diesel Outback

Work choices: Subaru believes that Outback buyers will go for a diesel engine more than Liberty buyers.

Subaru sets an agenda with the next Outback beating Forester for diesel power

18 Mar 2008

SUBARU has confirmed that it will introduce its first diesel-powered passenger car into Australia in 2009.

The next-generation version of the medium-sized Liberty-based Outback will be the first recipient, debuting in the third-generation model in the fourth quarter of next year – in time for the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

However, the next Liberty will remain a petrol-powered-only proposition for now.

“From the studies we’ve done, the Outback will have more sales potential as a diesel than a Liberty diesel,” said Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior.

As reported earlier this month, Subaru Australia had hoped to receive a diesel-powered version of the all-new, third-generation Forester first, but it seems the soonest time that the compact SUV will arrive here with diesel power will be in 2010.

Subaru’s first diesel engine, the 2.0-litre boxer four-cylinder powerplant, was unveiled late last year in the current (fourth-generation) model Legacy/Liberty range in Europe, where it has been met with widespread acclaim.

2 center imageSpeaking at the third-generation Forester’s launch in Tasmania last week, Mr Senior said that a diesel version of the compact SUV is still ranked very high on his wish list.

“Yes, I would love to have a diesel,” he said. “But the timeline at this stage is the Outback first, and then we will work in with the factory to see what we can bring to market as soon as possible after Outback.

“There is the potential to phase in the diesel across the whole range over a few years, but it can’t be done all at the same time. It’s a resources thing.” Mr Senior has already reiterated that Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries is absolutely committed to building its miniscule market share in Europe, where it is has languished until now at under 0.2 per cent of total market sharewithout the essential diesel engine availability. This means that supplying Europe is the number one priority.

However, he is still confident that Forester buyers will not have to wait too long for the diesel.

“We are having those discussions about when we can do it with Forester,” he said. “If I had to list them, it would be the Outback – and that’s chugging along, no pun intended – and to me the Forester would naturally be the second cab off the rank.” Nevertheless, Mr Senior does not regard the lack of a diesel engine in the new Forester today as a hindrance to sales – yet. He said that while diesel sales have grown strongly since 2004, they have done so from a tiny base, and that Australians have yet to fully embrace the fuel source at a mainstream level.

But he said that this will eventually change when a major player in the small car or compact SUV segments gets behind diesel with vigour.

“People say diesel sales are growing by percentage, but in terms of volume they are not growing significantly. Part of the reason there is that the volume players in either the small car or compact SUV market don’t have real viable diesel alternatives,” he said. “And I think that once you start to see a diesel in that compact SUV, you will start to see real incremental growth in diesel sales.” As far as adding a diesel engine to the recently released ZR1-series Impreza is concerned, Mr Senior is confident that will eventually happen too. But once again, Europe’s appetite must be satisfied first.

“There will be an Impreza diesel, but that’s probably way into (the future),” he said.

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