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Subaru hybrid ‘not before 2015’ in Oz

Future direction: Subaru has been toying with hybrid technology for several years, showing the Hybrid Tourer Concept at the 2009 Tokyo motor show.

New Subaru hybrid and BRZ hero cars still being evaluated for Australia

25 Oct 2011


SUBARU’S first hybrid vehicle is unlikely to arrive in Australia before 2015 – about two years after the petrol-electric car makes its debut in Japan.

Along with the new rear-drive BRZ sports coupe developed jointly with Toyota for a 2012 launch in most markets, the hybrid is a chance for Australian distribution, but neither car has been confirmed by Subaru Australia which is still weighing up the cost and benefits of both niche products.

The hybrid will be built on a current platform, possibly the all-new architecture under the latest fourth-generation Impreza small car and XV compact SUV that are both due to be launched in Australia over the next few months.

The hybrid technology will be trialled in the Japanese domestic market before being considered for export to countries such as Australia.

Subaru’s general manager for Asia, Pacific and Latin America, Junichi Tsukamoto, told GoAuto in Japan this week that the new hybrid would be a niche vehicle and a toe-in-the-water exercise for Subaru.

He ruled out an all-new platform for the car, confirming it would be built on a current architecture.

“We will start with Japan, as a trial, but I think it might be suitable for Australia if we decide to export it to other markets,” he said.

Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said the hybrid had been confirmed only for Japan, where it was expected to appear in 2013.

2 center imageFrom top: Subaru BRZ teaser, XV, Impreza sedan.

“My understanding is that it will be based on an existing vehicle in 2013, with the potential to do it on an existing vehicle or another vehicle further down the track,” he said“I would be very surprised if it is even considered for Australia before 2015.”

Asked if his company would be interested in the hybrid, Mr Senior said: “We would have to say ‘yes’, but the hybrid market hasn’t been the strongest in Australia, so we would have to give it some thought first.”

The hybrid car is part of Subaru’s Motion V five-year plan under which the Japanese company plans to lift sales to 900,000 sales a year, making one full model change each year.

Last year, Subaru made 623,000 vehicles, and despite production dramas caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March, the company hopes to eclipse that figure in the current financial year ending March 31.

Subaru has been toying with the hybrid plans for some years, showing the Hybrid Tourer Concept at the Tokyo motor show in 2009.

That wagon-style vehicle mated a typical Subaru ‘boxer’ four-cylinder engine with a 20kW electric motor, driving all four wheels.

Before the hybrid arrives in Japan, Subaru will launch its rear-drive BRZ sports coupe – the product of its joint venture with Toyota, which is set to launch its own version of the car – in the next few months.

The Subaru version – powered by a new 2.0-litre boxer engine using Toyota direct injection – will be unveiled at this year’s Tokyo motor show starting in late November.

Mr Senior said Subaru Australia had set itself a mid-December deadline for a decision on the BRZ, which stands for Boxer Rear-drive Zenith.

He said a number of factors were still being considered, including the issue of the BRZ’s rear-drive design that was contrary to Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive philosophy.

“If it was a front-drive car, the decision would be easy – we wouldn’t take it,” he said.

“But the rear-wheel drive car is built as a driver’s car, fundamentally, so it does fit a little bit into the Subaru philosophy.

“There are other reasons, such as it being a joint-venture car.”

Asked if Toyota Australia’s reported plans to give its near-identical version sharp pricing was causing Subaru Australia pause for thought about launching BRZ, Mr Senior said: “No, there are a whole lot of factors to take into consideration and some of those are taking a bit of time, and there is no hurry – the car is not due until the middle of next year, if we were to take it.

“That’s why the deadline around mid-December is OK.”

Next off the new-product rank for Subaru Australia are top-range Outback and Liberty models equipped with Subaru’s new EyeSight pedestrian anti-collision system next month.

They will be followed by the all-new XV compact SUV in January, and then, from about late February, the new fourth-generation Impreza.

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1st of January 1970

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