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    Subaru Stands At A Crossroad


    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    August 12, 2013

    Coming off a very successful year which saw its stock rise fivefold, Subaru is at a crossroad. Do they stay as a niche player or go mainstream? That's a question that executives at Subaru and Fuji Heavy will decide as a new report from Bloomberg says discussions will begin next month.

    "We're standing at a major turning point for Subaru. It shouldn't just be about volumes. We should be making cars only Subaru can make that are a little more expensive and more profitable than the competition," said Fuji Heavy President Yasuyuki Yoshinaga.

    "Some people in the company may want to make mass-market products or cheaper cars, but is this really the right direction for Subaru? We're not a carmaker that can grow as big as Toyota. And even if we could, reaching that sort of scale would mean we'd stop being Subaru."

    The discussions will focus on whether Subaru should stick to its core group of products, expand its current lineup, or develop cheaper vehicles for emerging markets.

    Source: Boomberg

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    Stick with what works, Subaru has never been a major player in the game, but that hasn't stopped them. While other lower volumes companies have went packing in recent years, Subaru maintains it's place based on its history. The WRX has a huge following, The BRZ is a nice entry level halo vehicle. I think the rest of the lineup needs a shot of adrenaline, but going for pure volume isn't going to do it.

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    Gaining volume means shedding the brand's ideals... no more AWD standard for one... I don't think that is a wise move for Subaru.

    Maybe they should try their hand at the mid-size crossover again... and this time don't make it with a starting price $10k over the competition.

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    Subaru should remeber SAAB's story (slowly becoing too GM-like) and they should at all cost avoid it. Go with your brand identity and don't become a "generic".

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    I think Subaru can add a few more AWD models to fill in holes in their portfolio, but I agree with the broad consensus, the over all mega car companies are consuming and merging into mega companies to push up profits and hopefully push prices down. Subaru has a niche market that is profitable and they should stay focused on it. Generic will be the death bell for them.

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    Honestly, I don't know if AWD as standard is such a great idea. In places where it never snows, AWD does more harm than good. It makes the car less entertaining to drive, makes it slightly heavier, reduces fuel economy and adds cost (about $750~1500 depending on the center and front differentials).

    Subaru can and should make it optional so they can not just drop prices by a bit and raise the fuel economy numbers by a bit, but also give RWD seekers something they want. There aren't that many RWD options in Subaru's price segment and this is another market for them to exploit. Going RWD is simple for Subaru. Remove the front differential, get rid of the half-shafts, remove the center out-take gear (run of the mill Subarus don't have a center differential but a fixed 50/50 F/R torque split, i.e. symmetric AWD). The rest of the transmission stays the same.

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    I very much disagree that AWD makes the car less entertaining to drive.... it really depends on what you call "entertaining". If the only thing that you find entertaining is hanging the rear end out on corners, then yeah, AWD won't be for you. But driving an AWD version of a FWD car is far more fun... and driving an AWD version of a RWD is more "sticky" if you're into cornering fast.

    Subaru doesn't seem to have major issues with fuel economy, on the highway they do very well with their CVT.

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    I not only have to agree with Drew on his points he made but want to say that Dwight you need to take a Trailblazer SS AWD for a drive. I have had mine, 2008 now for 2 years, second owner and Love it. The first four years were driven by the Chevy Dealers sales managers wife and she clearly did not drive it.

    I can tell you that while it is far more sticky when driven aggressive in rain or snow than a RWD or FWD car, I can also hang the tail end out if I want under aggressive driving on dry pavement. This little SUV is a blast to drive and allows you to push it far better than the other two. I totally disagree with you on the lack of entertainment. I find I can have MORE entertainment in an AWD pushing the limits of what a RWD or FWD car would not handle.

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    It doesn't take a tail out situation for the traits of AWD to make itself felt. And some of those traits are quite dampening. In the 90s, I went through two AWD cars in succession -- a 1988 Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo (ST185), followed by an Eagle Talon TSi (basically a rebranded Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX). In the mid 2000s I was driving an Audi S4 2.7T (B5). So, I had my share of AWD cars.

    In general, they behave with significant understeer going into a corner and if you give it just enough throttle it adjusts to neutral. However if you floor it, it understeers again and stays that way crawling its way out. You are usually stuck with an understeering car scrubbing its front tires most of the time. More importantly there is a lack of the ability to adjust the attitute of the vehicle with the throttle. The car is dead set on being stable and throttle inputs simply increase that stability. I am not talking about breaking the tail loose, just alter the understeer/neutral/oversteer attitude of the car. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that a FWD or RWD car typically have one differential. AWD cars have three. Some of these are usually limited slips and if they are viscous it reduces the agility of the car by counteracting (at least partially) the desire of the inside and outside wheels and/or the front and rear axles to turn at slightly different speeds. This trait is present even when decelerating.

    Until the advent of active differentials such is the general driving dynamics of an AWD. The upside of course is tremendous launch traction and the ability to drive on low traction surfaces (like snow) with a greater degree of poise. Subarus in particular are bad in this regard. To keep their AWD system simple and because they have a transmission layout the makes this easy to implement, run of the mill Subaru do not have a center differential. The transmission output is geared directly to supply the front and rear differentials with 50% of the torque each. This makes the understeering problem worse by forbiding axle speed differences..

    What I am saying is that Subaru can and should make RWD the standard for $1000 less than their AWD vehicles. That consumer choice doesn't hurt. That discount doesn't hurt. And, about 1~2mpg of mileage improvement certainly doesn't hurt.

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    To what end though? How many extra Legacy Wagons is Subaru going to sell to Mrs. Soccer-Mom in RWD only guise? The WRX-STI gets it's cred by being a 300hp AWD Snow Monster with participation in off road rally sports, how many more would Subaru sell by offering that in RWD? Grandma Bluehair and Mz.Flanelwear buy their Impreza hatchback and Forester specifically for the AWD... RWD is a detractor to them.

    Simply put, what does RWD get Subaru in terms of volume here... a 1% increase in sales to the bargain basement shopper?

    I wonder what percentage of Audi models are sold equipped as Front-Track....

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    I will still have to disagree as my AWD auto's have not had the noticeable under-steer that you state.

    I also agree again with Drew that there is minor gain by Subaru going with a RWD model. People know Subaru as an AWD company that they want it because of that.

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    well, to be fair to both Toyota and Subaru.... Subaru's AWD is much better than the FWD based AWD Toyota uses. I could see Toyota looking at Subaru's AWD for use in RWD based Lexus models, which might even be a selling point.

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    Didn't GM when they did own the interest that Toyota now owns use their AWD system in their own AWD products or at least design wise?

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    Subaru - Stay small survive so-long. The brand has a catchet and a loyal base. Look at BMW and how its base is on the verge of a revolt.

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    as a whole car, yes. but some of the AWD bits made it into the Aztek/Rendezvous I believe.

    My research is showing that other than the SAAB 9-2x that used Subarus AWD system they also put the current AWD system from Subaru in the 6000 STE AWD.

    post-12-0-96685300-1376611179_thumb.jpg

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    • By William Maley
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