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Subaru to retain uniqueness with GM association

Subaru to retain uniqueness with GM association

Subaru will retain its unique character and identity even though it is 20 percent owned by General Motors, the world's largest motor manufacturer.

"We have agreed to continue our uniqueness," said Kyoji Takenaka, the President of Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru's parent company on a visit to New Zealand this week.

While there are on going technology exchanges between Subaru and General Motors in a variety of areas, the two companies had set guidelines on how Subaru will retain its identity.

"There will be no collaboration with GM's mass brands like Holden, Opel and its big North American brands," said Mr Takenaka. "But there will be co-operation with small companies like Saab."

Subaru has provided GM with technology assistance with All Wheel Drive, while in return it has received help with the development of its first ever diesel engine, an area of the motor industry it has no experience in.

To retain its unique character, Subaru is developing a two litre "boxer" diesel motor, rather than simply buy in the technology from another GM affiliate.

Mr Takenaka concedes Subaru's ability to lift its market share significantly in Europe where diesel engined vehicles make up a large proportion of all new car sales, will depend on the successful development of its horizontally opposed diesel engine.

This will slide straight into the engine bay of all Subaru's major models, without other significant engineering changes to the current cars which are powered by petrol "boxer" motors.

Prototype diesel boxer motors have produced good results in testing, said Mr Takenaka. Now Subaru has to develop a business case on the economic viability of putting the motor into production.

If diesel engined Subarus do become a reality, Mr Takenaka believes the company could grow its current annual 60,000 European sales to 100,000 quite quickly.

In a wide ranging discussion, Mr Takenaka said Subaru was committed to competing in the World Rally Championship on a long term basis.

"There is a commonality between the WRC and our products and the events are held on public roads. People can see how our cars perform in real world situations."

He said Subaru would not become involved in any form of international motor racing because it was held on artificial tracks that had little relevance to every day driving.

"We've developed in WRC and will continue to do so."

Unlike many of its competitors, Subaru is not rushing into manufacturing in the Chinese market, where sales have softened this year and manufacturers are now engaging in discounting and incentives to move stock.

"We're exporting from Japan to China and concentrating on three areas, Beijing, Shanghai and in the middle of the country where there is still a good demand for premium products."

Subaru wanted to continue developing its position with world class distinctive cars different from the rest of the motor industry, said Mr Takenaka.

"We're aiming to be a premium brand with high quality design and engineering to give our cars personality."

And in these P.C. times, Mr Takenaka even admitted Subaru's performance models were designed for "premium value for driving pleasure so people will like driving the car by themselves."

With its unique symmetrical drive train lay-out Subaru was looking at various transmission options for its next generation of cars, said Mr Takenaka. It does not have the luxury of simply buying in the gearboxes from a specialty manufacturer, because of the need to adapt to the All Wheel Drive transmission lay-out.

Among those options were conventional six speed automatics, continuously variable transmissions and DSG or Sportshift type automatics.

Mr Takenaka has been the president of FHI since 2001 and has been responsible for accelerating the company away from the mainstream motor industry and chasing the more profitable premium market.

Subaru's sales in New Zealand this year are expected to climb by at least 24 percent to reach more than 2000 units, with its complementary range of performance and lifestyle models.

ENDS

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