- All-new XV crossover leads Subaru’s model offensive
- Hybrid powertrains are just around the corner
- WRX STI still has a future in Britain
There’s no escaping that Subaru is a niche player in the UK, with company car sales low on the priority list for a brand that shifted 3,700 units in 2016, representing just less than 10% of its European volume.
Amid the melee of the Geneva motor show where the 2017 XV crossover was unveiled, Subaru UK’s Managing Director, Paul Tunnicliffe, revealed that while fleet sales aren’t suddenly going to become big news for the company, a shifting of emphasis to include low-emission hybrids will inevitably make them more attractive.
What is the all-new Subaru XV’s key attraction in a crowded crossover market?
“Subarus appeal to customers who value a car’s overall capabilities and all XVs sold will have our trademark all-wheel drive system. Other crossovers are predominantly front-wheel drive, but with the Subaru XV you can actually go off-road in it – and a particular customer demographic requires that.”
Do you expect demand for diesel-engined Subarus to begin to dwindle?
“Sales of diesels are already slowing down. Customers are beginning to get nervous about whether they’ll be able to take their diesel Subarus into larger cities in the future and if there might be a negative impact on resale values.
“More efficient petrol engines have already closed the economy gap, making the case for diesel less compelling.”
Does Toyota’s stake in Subaru allow for easier access to its hybrid expertise?
“Subaru already sells a mild-hybrid XV in the USA, but it’s clear that future emissions targets can’t be met with our existing engines.
“Whether Toyota’s hybrid systems can work in conjunction with Subaru’s horizontally opposed engine design isn’t yet clear, but the reality is that we would like to be able to sell alternative-fuel vehicles within the next 18 months.
“Our customers would have previously traded the eco-friendliness of a car for greater capability, but that’s changing. By 2020 Subaru needs to offer a capable range of low- or no-emission cars.”
Could Subaru’s forthcoming seven-seater SUV come to Britain?
“It could, but it’s less of a priority than introducing low-emission Subarus to the UK.”
Will Sterling’s weakness affect which Subarus come to Britain?
“When Sterling initially fell after the Brexit result, we had to increase our prices, but now they’ve plateaued out at a level that allows Subaru to remain competitive and in the game.
“It’s unlikely to influence a decision about bringing the next WRX STI to Britain as it’s a car with an enthusiastic following – emotionally it’s important to the brand as it’s a visible symbol of Subaru.”
Does that visibility include Subaru’s successful participation in the British Touring Car Championship?
“Inevitably people still think of Subarus in motorsport as blue and gold with Colin McRae and Richard Burns rallying, but the Levorg Sport Tourers racing in the BTCC reveal a passion and affection for the brand in Britain. The car parks are full of them at every race meet – it’s great to see.”
Aside from all-wheel drive what are the hallmarks of Subaru that buyers value most?
“Subaru’s an engineering-led firm, meaning our cars are robust with great longevity and reliability. They appeal to people who are comfortable in their own skin who have no great desire to drive models with the latest fashionable colour or the newest alloy wheel design.
“Above all though, is that capability and dependability – Subaru customers are a loyal breed because of that.”
Final specifications for the all-new 2017 Subaru XV have yet to be confirmed but we’ll be putting the crossover under the Parkers full review microscope later in the year.
If you’re holding out for a Benefit-in-Kind friendly hybrid version, you’re going to have to wait a while longer yet.