GoAutoLogo
MENU

Future models - Subaru - Exiga

Seven-seat Subaru Exiga barred by belt shortfall

Liberty family: Subaru's new Exiga people-mover will arrive under the the Liberty banner in November, but only with six seats.

Upcoming six-seats-only Subaru Exiga to bask under Liberty family halo

Subaru logo11 Sep 2009

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

SUBARU has decided to give its upcoming Exiga people-mover a fighting chance in Australia by adding the ‘Liberty’ prefix to it.

However, Subaru admits that it is stuck with only the six-seater version for Australia because the seven-seater Exiga as sold in Japan lacks a centre-rear lap-sash seatbelt.

Plus it seems the Exiga has not been reengineered to have the lap-only seatbelt issue rectified despite strong requests to parent firm Fuji Heavy Industries from Subaru Australia to do so in time for the Liberty Exiga’s November debut.

This is a blow for the company, since the subsequent six-seater layout diminishes the all-wheel drive Liberty Exiga’s potential appeal against big-selling seven-seater people movers such as the Honda Odyssey and Kia Carnival, as well as identically configured SUV crossovers like the Ford Territory, Holden Captiva and Toyota Kluger.

And history has not been kind to six-seater wagon sales in Australia, as witnessed by the smaller-than-expected market share of the Kia Carens (2001) and Mercedes-Benz R-class.

2 center imageConsequently, with just six seats to brag about, the Liberty Exiga will instead play a small but important part in Subaru’s renewed wagon assault, with the Holden Commodore Sportwagon suggested as one of its biggest conquests.

“For versatility, we will be introducing the Liberty Exiga in a couple of months time with a multi-seat functionality,” revealed Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior.

“It will have very targeted equipment levels including a standard DVD player, and it will have especially strong dynamics – much the same as Liberty and Outback.”

This strategy will be backed by the redesigned Liberty wagon and Outback crossover models launched in Australia this month, which are significantly larger yet more efficient than previously.

Mr Senior said the Liberty 2.5i wagon and 2.5i Premium wagon would lure buyers wanting “functionality” the new Liberty 2.5i Sport and turbocharged 2.5i GT are for those seeking a “sporty” load carrier while people dreaming of a lifestyle/adventure vehicle will be well served by the “recreational” Outback.

Furthermore, the long-awaited horizontally opposed 2.0D turbo-diesel engine set for the latter model in November will further broaden Subaru’s wagon net.

The company admits that pairing Exiga to the Liberty bandwagon will save money and time on buyer education, advertising and promotion, particularly as Australians have had 20 years to connect with what Liberty stands for, thus placing the Liberty Exiga much more clearly into context.

Leveraging the Liberty reputation is no deception either, as the Exiga is based on the latest Liberty platform.

Subaru says not introducing the seven-seater Exiga to Australia is safeguarding its hard-won reputation for pioneering safety.

Mr Senior’s team decided not to risk the wrath of critics as well as consumer backlash when it backed away from the seven-seat Exiga, even after realising the six-seater’s uphill battle.

“Wagons remain a critical component of our line-up and they accounted of around 30 per cent of our Liberty sales last year,” Mr Senior believes.

“Moving forward, we will continue to offer customers what they want, and not what we think they want.

“And because of that we are going to introduce a four-tier strategy … that range enables us to speak to more customers than we have been able to previously … especially against locally produced wagons.

“You may be asking why ‘Liberty Exiga’ the Liberty Exiga is an extension of our Liberty wagon strategy, is on the same wheelbase as the Liberty, and it will have the same dynamics as a Liberty wagon.

“Indeed we will be able to leverage the Liberty name and so save a considerable amount of money trying to establish a new nameplate into the Australian market.

“Touching on safety … I like going to work each day knowing that every vehicle I sell is equipped with the best active and passive safety story.

“(So) it means we have to make a few tough calls along the way, and one of those is that the Exiga, which we will be selling in Australia only as a six-seater.

“We couldn’t introduce it here as a seven-seater because the seventh seat is a lap belt, and we would only go for the best possible safety credentials.”

Australian-bound Liberty Exigas are expected to use a variation of the 123kW/229kW 2.5-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder petrol engine driving all four wheels via Subaru’s all-new Lineartronic CVT Continuously Variable Transmission.

Whether we see a turbocharged higher-performance version as sold in Japan remains to be seen.

On a side note, in Japan, the Exiga has served as the replacement for the badge-engineered Opel Zafira A, which was sold briefly there as the Subaru Traviq during Subaru’s troubled association with General Motors that also saw Saab sell a variation of its previous-generation Impreza as the ill-fated 9-2.

Read more

Share with your friends

Subaru models