JAPAN: Subaru plans diesels soon
Subaru car maker Fuji Heavy Industries is considering introducing diesel models in the United States and Europe, the company's president told Kyodo News.
On a 1 August, Subaru's UK importer confirmed that the automaker was considering launching diesel-powered models but a spokeswoman would not provide more details.
The UK's What Car? magazine had reported the automaker would soon build its own two-litre four-cylinder diesel engine - thought likely to feature first in Subaru's premium new crossover, the Tribeca, now being launched in the UK and Europe - with a three-litre six-cylinder version also on the cards.
Subaru, known for its horizontally-opposed petrol engines, sporty Impreza sedans and rugged four-wheel drive crossovers, has a strong following in the UK market, particularly amongst rural buyers and farmers, but cannot compete fully in the some segments due to a lack of diesel models, which account for 50% or more of rivals' sales.
Developing a diesel would also help the brand in Europe where diesels account for 70-80% of light vehicle sales in some markets.
Now, according to Kyodo News, Ikuo Mori has said Subaru plans to introduce diesel vehicles in Europe - where diesel cars account for half of the auto market overall - next year or in 2008.
Fuji Heavy may later seek to launch diesel vehicles in the United States, Mori reportedly said. ''In response to rising gasoline prices, demand is emerging for fuel-efficient diesel vehicles in the United States,'' he said.
Although Fuji has intensified investment and seen sales rise in the United States over the past few years, he said Fuji's mainstay turbo-charged vehicles have failed to sell as expected due to rising petrol prices, the report noted.
Asked if the company was eyeing other markets for diesel vehicles, Mori mentioned China as a possibly large market in the future, if not in the near future.
''Diesel vehicles are more suitable for long-distance driving than hybrid vehicles in terms of fuel efficiency and conservation of the environment,'' he said.
Mori said vehicle marketing in Japan has been difficult due to slow demand. Fuji will introduce special-specification vehicles and try to increase sales of minivehicles in the domestic market, he said.
Mori told Kyodo News it would be difficult for Fuji to cooperate with its largest shareholder, Toyota Motor, in auto sales.
''In the field of sales, Toyota is a competitor. It's difficult to cooperate with Toyota partly also because we have to cherish ties with our dealers,'' he said.
The news agency noted that Toyota has purchased Fuji shares from General Motors and now has an 8.7% stake in Fuji.
Fuji intends to remain an independent brand and has no intent to see Toyota's stake expand, Mori said, according to the report.