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Subaru’s design redirection

Toned down: Revised Tribeca does away with original's aero-look.

Less controversy and more customer focus are the keys to Subaru’s new corporate look

17 Apr 2007

SUBARU has abandoned its bold styling ethos for greater mainstream customer focus.

This is the word from president and CEO of Fuji Heavy Industries, Mr Ikuo Mori, in the wake of a less than stellar sales performance from its Tribeca.

Speaking at this month’s New York International Auto Show, where the third-generation Impreza small car and facelifted Tribeca SUV made thei global debuts, Mr Mori revealed that Subaru, traditionally an engineering-dictated company, is now listening more carefully to what consumers desire.

"(Subaru used to ask itself) ‘what kind of vehicle would we like to produce’, but we would now like to change that to ‘what kind of vehicle does the customer want?’ "But the technological basis is still the same," Mr Mori assures. "Symmetrical all-wheel drive system and boxer engine are core value, so we will keep maintaining that technology."

2 center imageThe revised Tribeca’s squared off nose and cleaner tailgate design – appearing just a few months on from its Australian launch and less than two years after going on sale in the United States – shows how serious Subaru is about moving away from "polarising" stying.

Of even greater significance is the Impreza small car’s abolition of its hitherto trademark "Sportswagon" body shape for a far-more conventional two-box hatchback silhouette.

However, Akihide Takeuchi, project general manager of Subaru’s Product and Portfolio Planning Division, denies that Subaru is simply following the crowd now.

He insists that the new Impreza’s tail section is still slightly extended compared to rival models, for increased wagon versatility but without the handling penalties of the current Sportswagon's long overhangs.

"This is a new idea of the crossover wagon style – not exactly a wagon, not exactly a hatch," Mr Takeuchi insists.

Gone too are the previous Impreza’s frameless doors.

Mr Takeuchi states four main reasons why: easier rear cabin access, as conventional doors allow for wider openings improved quality – including easier fitment at the factory, simpler repairs, reduced parts and better noise deadening no more unsightly rubber seals, mouldings, gaps and grooves that frameless doors bring and improved crash protection.

A fresh look for Subaru is another goal.

"This is a brand-new Impreza and this is a brand-new Subaru style," declares Mr Takeuchi.

Expect to see frameless doors on 2009’s generation-five Liberty, although Subaru will not confirm this.

Surprisingly, Mr Takeuchi denies that consumer resistance to the current-generation Impreza since the bug-eyed look was unveiled in 2000, as well as the failure of the Tribeca to hit its initial global sales forecasts, is what drove Subaru to tone down its designs.

"We never thought about the reputation of the other models when we were designing the Impreza and Tribeca," Mr Takeuchi reveals.

"It was certainly a polarising design the way we were headed, (but this is) just personal taste.

"A car has to have the right proportion – that is the focus of what we were thinking."

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