Subaru is a subsidiary of the Fuji Heavy Industries company. In 1954, the then-CEO Kenji Kita had a desire to add an automobile division to the company’s portfolio and set about planning his first car. The car was codenamed the P1; however, he already had a final name in mind for the car and so the Subaru was born. Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster. As well as the company’s first car’s name, it also became the name of FHI’s automotive division.
One of the first successes for the Subaru company was the small economy car, the 360, first produced in 1958 and lasting up until 1971. By 1968, Nissan had acquired a 20 per cent stake in Subaru. Joint ventures between the two companies bore fruit, particularly from Subaru’s diesel knowledge and Nissan’s parts manufacturing.
During the 1970s, Subaru branched out from its specialised, small cars and started to produce larger family cars like the Leone. It was during this period that Subaru started opening dealerships here. The first cars were sold in 1973, and all models sold here since 1997 have featured all-wheel drive.
Working together with Isuzu, Subaru started building cars in Lyfayette, Indiana, manufacturing the Legacy and the Isuzu Rodeo. They worked with each other until 2001 when Isuzu pulled out and the plant’s production slowed down.
In 1999, Nissan sold its holdings in Subaru to General Motors. Once again, partnerships led to rebadging of cars and parts-sharing continued. This saw the Subaru Forester, sold in America as the Chevrolet Forester, and the Subaru Traviq, a rebadged Zafira, appear on Japanese streets.
Toyota gained a small share of FHI from GM in 2005. When they finally decided to sell their remaining stock, it was rumoured that a car manufacturer had brought a substantial amount. Once this deal had been brokered, Subaru and Toyota announced a joint American venture, where the Camry would be assembled in Subaru’s Lafayette plant.
The first successful Subaru ever sold was the 360 small family car. This was followed by the Subaru 1000 in 1966, which had the innovative horizontally opposed Boxer engine fitted. The Boxer engines have gone on to become a favourite of the Subaru designers.
The next big step for Subaru was the release of their first all-wheel drive vehicle, the Leone station wagon, in 1973. Then they began what would come to be known as 'crossovers’ when they released the Brumby, a comfortable ute. This was followed by the Liberty in 1989 and the very popular Impreza in 1993. The wilds of this country were the perfect backdrop in the promos for Subaru’s terrain-busting Outback, launched in 1996 with the sound bite: 'The world’s first sport utility wagon.’
Continuing to find success in the market, Subaru started selling their Forester and announced that all models would be all-wheel drive from then on. The Trebca in 2006 and the new generation Impreza a year later received the much-coveted five-star safety rating. When, in 2007, the face-lifted Outback and Legacy were released, Subaru announced that all cars would be fitted with electronic stability control as standard.
Over the years, Subaru have also run a very successful rally team. Initially, they used an enhanced Leone coupe. In 1986, they produced a competitive car when they combined the turbodiesel with a four-wheel drive system. In the 1990s, they switched to modified Imprezas, and the WRX and WRX STi versions continue to be some of the leading work cars on the circuit.
Subaru has always relished competition in rugged environments. As a result, the company has seen its popularity grow in areas like our outback, the rough country of America’s northeast, and across Canada. The current crop of Subaru vehicles covers a wide spectrum of car classes, so at some point or other they are pretty much competing against the majority of motor manufacturers.
Their main competition are the likes of Suzuki, Land Rover, and Mitsubishi in the 4x4 groups. Their family cars like the Impeza happily take on Ford, Fiat Renault, and Volkswagen, while their MPV Libety Exiga has a sporty look that will compete with the likes of Mercedes and Nissan. The top performer, the Subaru BRZ, is designed to have all the power, presence, and pace of anything Porsche, Lamborghini, or Jaguar care to throw at it.
All in all, Subaru has over the years developed a loyal and expectant following. They have produced some excellent 4x4 vehicles ideally suited for roads off the beaten track and often include many of their innovative developments as standard. Subaru guarantees you a durable, well-equipped, and stylish-looking car that holds up well over time.