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Safety the key for Subaru’s shifting brand image

Smokey Mountain: Subaru’s is pushing to shift its brand perception from just a brand involved in rallying and motorsport, to one with an emphasis on safety and reliability.

Subaru prioritises safety, reliability and driver involvement with new models

Subaru logo16 Apr 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN in JAPAN

SUBARU says it is trying to shift its image from the brand that dominated rallying back in the 1990s with its WRX boy racer and is instead focusing on promoting its EyeSight technology and all-wheel-drive underpinnings as a point of difference that makes its models safer.

Subaru general manager of overseas sales and marketing Makoto Inoue told GoAuto at the international first drive of the upcoming XV crossover that the Japanese car-maker is trying to de-emphasise its connections to motorsport and play up its strong safety credentials.

“Actually, this is not only for the Australian market, but also for the European market, the Subaru image is strongly related to motorsports and those kinds of things,” he said.

“As you know we already have stopped the WRC (World Rally Championship) activities and… we’d like to let our customer, our general customer, know how Subaru is very much (about) safe cars.”

Mr Inoue said Subaru’s new Global Platform – which underpins the new Impreza and XV and will spread to the rest of its vehicle range – was developed “to improve the safety performance and improve the engine performance and those kinds of things”.

When launched in Australia in December, the Impreza achieved the maximum five-star crash safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) with a score of 35.8 out of a possible 37.

The incoming XV SUV is also expected to be awarded the maximum five stars, with its crash testing in Japan yielding the highest crash score in the country yet, with a score of 199.7 out of a possible 208.

However, Mr Inoue said that progress in safety technologies would not come at the cost of driver involvement and both would be developed side-by-side.

“If the general customer, at this moment doesn’t notice those kinds of things, we’d definitely like to let our customers know about how Subaru is sensible for improving safety performance,” he said.

“The first (thing) we need to consider (is) the safety, and simultaneously we need to consider how to provide the driving fun because, of course, this is the… DNA of Subaru.”

While Subaru is looking to increase its global sales by eight per cent this year, Mr Inoue said volume growth was not the brand’s outright priority.

“Actually, we have the intention to provide value out of a vehicle, just aiming to increase the volume is not our strategy,” he said. “We would like to aim to have the ‘Oh Subaru, it’s a really nice car’, those kind of perceptions we would like to have.

“A lot of the general customers, they say ‘Oh Subaru, it’s a rally car, it’s a race car’, and this is not a bad thing, it’s also a good thing. But we need to let the customer know that not only are Subarus sporty, but also a reliable car, a safe car, still I think we are now missing those images.

“First our goal is to have those kinds of perceptions… and then I think the car market, the car situation, is changing in the future… we believe the driving fun is still the key factor in the vehicles, we intend to provide those traits.”

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