Subaru has always been known as a company that sacrificed design for a combination of superior engineering and unbeatable price; this combination has always made Subaru a bit of a niche brand in the car world. Now, however, Subaru has decided to combat the image in the name of increased viability in a time of phenomenal growth for the Japanese automaker. Indeed, since the start of the recession, Subaru sales have increased by over 35%- second only to Buick, and a figure Subaru executives see exploding once the cars are more readily embraceable.
And to expedite this growth process, Subaru have brought out a new design manager. Osamu Namba, the newly hired manager at Subraru, seeks “a very simple design that exhibits strength.” And, in Namba”s vision, the strength of the design will come through in sales: “A lot of people don’t know that Subaru brand. If we can make styling more accessible, it will bring them in.” In his first released project for Subaru, a Hybrid Tourer Concept at the 2009 Tokyo Auto Show, Namba put this more powerful, straightforward vision to the test.
Two questions face the surging Japanese carmaker: first, will a more public-friendly design translate into increased sales for the company? And, assuming it does, will these gains be matched by a dropoff in long-term Subaru support, those who appreciated the once quirky nature of Subraru”s product line? Subaru seem confident that they will, with the understanding that “cheap and ugly”-a 1960s advertising slogan for Subaru cars- isn”t a strategy to succeed today, and a positive step in the direction of growth. Whether the process works can only be answered in due time.
– By: Zain Haq