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New York show: Impreza to lift Subaru
Subaru’s global sales to get a boost from all-new Impreza
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27 Mar 2016
By TIM NICHOLSON in NEW YORK
SUBARU’S all-new Impreza range is set to be a stronger player in the ultra-competitive small-car segment and could help drive an increase in the company‘s global sales.
The fifth-generation Impreza, fresh from its debut at the New York motor show this week, is expected to bring improvements to cabin comfort, ride quality and safety over the model it replaces when it arrives in Australia in late-2016 or early 2017.
Subaru of America president and chief operating officer Tom Doll told reporters that the new Impreza was benchmarked against some of the best small-car rivals on the market, without identifying specific models.
“We basically looked at all of the competition that is in the sub-compact category,” he said. “We looked at Japanese, we looked at European competitors, we looked at everything.”
Mr Doll said Subaru’s drive to become more competitive globally and to increase its sales would require more than just one model such as the Impreza and would be on the back of a “wide portfolio” of models.
“It’s not one vehicle that gets you to the entire platform of what you need.
This is a car that is a cornerstone that is certainly going to help propel us to the next level.” In Australia the Impreza sales are healthy given the size of the Subaru brand, averaging between 5000 and 8500 annually, but it sits well behind big hitters such as the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 that finished last year with 42,073 and 38,644 sales respectively.
Mr Doll said timing for the next-generation high-performance WRX models would be “in the ballpark” of two-to-three years time.
Like all future Subaru models, the WRX will share the same new Subaru Global Platform as the Impreza.
One key area of improvement for the new-gen Impreza will be fuel-efficiency, which is not as low as a number of key competitors in the segment owing to the standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive across the range.
“The fuel economy numbers haven’t been finalised yet,” Mr Doll said. “So we can’t really say what the fuel economy numbers are but we are expecting them, obviously, to be better. Particularly on the CVT (continuously variable transmission) level with the improvements that they made with the platform and the design and weights and so forth.”
While Subaru is famous for using Boxer engines to power its range, the Japanese car-maker will soon step into unchartered waters, with stricter emissions regulations kicking in in about two years and forcing it to develop hybrid powertrains.
“In 2018 we have to begin bringing out our versions of hybrids and electric-type vehicles in the US market,” Mr Doll said.
“These technology bets are costly and so we have to make sure we make the right decisions.”
Mr Doll declined to discuss which models will gain hybrid power, or whether it would be mild hybrid or a plug-in electric vehicle, but the Subaru Global Platform has been developed to accommodate electric and hybrid powertrains, as well as autonomous driving technology.
The car-maker previewed a 1.6-litre diesel-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain in the 2014 Viziv 2 concept, but it is unclear if this has been developed for production models.
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