Next WRX will look not dissimilar to VIZIV concept

Next WRX will look not dissimilar to VIZIV concept

Is it dangerous to have almost two thirds of your global production going to one market? And what if your brand is one which can't command luxury car prices? Things are good for Subaru Corporation; very good in fact. There are risks though. Big risks. 

Subaru knows that it needs to have a better balance in where it sells cars. Exports to Europe are tiny, the Communist Party has effectively shut it out of China after approval for a manufacturing JV with Chery Auto was refused, and it's a small player in Japan. Without the US, where it sells more vehicles than the Volkswagen Group, and to a lesser extent, Canada and Australia, where Subaru also punches way above its weight, this would be a deeply troubled company. 

January was the 74th month in a row in which US sales improved.

Thanks to decades of hard work by Subaru of America, plus short vehicle life cycles compared to those of many rivals, the brand is incredibly strong there. January was the 74th month in a row in which sales improved. Last year, US market deliveries hit a peak of 647,956 vehicles. This wasn't just crossovers either, as roughly 150,000 units of that total were cars. 

The global sales target for CY2018 is a mere two per cent rise, which if attained, would be 1.08m vehicles. Subaru of America is expected to deliver five per cent more vehicles this year, helped along by the addition of the brand's largest model yet, the Ascent crossover. Looking at how strongly the year has started, what some consider to be an overly ambitious goal - 680,000 registrations - might well be possible.

Mini-vehicles

Subaru must of course compete in Japan's Kei segment for it to be a mainstream brand there. Since having become part of the Toyota Motor Corporation family (TMC has a 17 per cent holding in Subaru Corporation), these 660cc mini-vehicles are no longer self-developed or bought in from non-TMC firms.

The Justy and Justy Custom are built by Daihatsu and are based upon that company's Thor and Thor Custom models. The current cars went on sale in Japan last October and should have a life cycle of four years with a facelift in the final quarter of 2019.

The Stella is another Kei model. The latest shape car has been available in Japan since December 2014 with the replacement due in December 2018. This five-door hatchback is manufactured by Daihatsu and is nearly identical to the Move.

Each of Subaru's five Japanese market mini-vehicles is built by Daihatsu.

The third of five mini-cars is the Pleo series. This includes the Pleo+. Supplied by Daihatsu, they are closely based on the Move and Mira eS. Replacements should go on sale around mid-2019, which will be when these models have reached four years of production.

One further Kei vehicle is the Chiffon. There is also a Chiffon Custom. These little hatchbacks are manufactured on the same production line as the Daihatsu Tanto and Tanto Custom upon which they are based. Successors are due in the final quarter of 2019, again using DNGA (Daihatsu New Generation Architecture). 

For its only micro-minivan, Subaru naturally turned to its Osaka-based sister firm. The Dias, formerly the Sambar Dias, which is sold mainly in Japan, was launched there in September 2009. It is a slightly restyled version of the Daihatsu Atrai Wagon. The Dias will probably be phased out later this year.

Sedans, hatchbacks and a wagon

The then Fuji Heavy stated in May 2013 that the fourth generation Impreza sedan and five-door hatchbacks would also be manufactured in the US from 2016. Production at the main Subaru plant in Ota (Gunma Prefecture) continues for Japan and other markets.

FHI had been discussing options for the future of the second line at its Layfayette plant in Indiana with Toyota for some time. Previously, as many as 100,000 units of the Toyota Camry had been made there each year but Subaru wanted the entire plant for production of its own models. In May 2014, Toyota and FHI stated that Camry production at Lafayette would end "in the fall of 2016".

This Impreza was the first vehicle for SGP (Subaru Global Platform). Its world premiere was at the 2016 New York auto show. An earlier preview, in the form of a five-door concept car, was revealed at October 2015's Tokyo motor show. The latest four- and five-door cars are larger in almost all dimensions and now more or less identical in size to the Honda Civic sedan and five-door hatchback.

New for North America's 2017 model year, the Impreza sedan and hatchback went on sale there in October 2016. Subaru of America announced the start of production at SIA (Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.) in early November 2016.

Gunma is the lead plant for the Impreza, build commencing there just ahead of Job 1 at SIA.

Gunma remains the lead plant for the Impreza, production commencing there just ahead of Job 1 at SIA. Subaru took more than 10,000 orders for the car in the Japanese market in its first month on sale there (October 2016).

The latest Impreza's debut in the European region was at the Frankfurt IAA in September 2017. As with the previous shape model, there is no diesel.

A facelifted model should be announced in 2019.

The fifth generation Impreza will use the same SGP as its basis. That car is due in late 2021. Half way through its lifecycle, there might be an EV variant, and possibly before then, an Impreza HEV and/or PHEV.

The LEVORG concept ('Legacy, Revolution, Touring') at November 2013's Tokyo motor show offered a preview of the styling of this additional model. Fuji Heavy had already given the wheelbase dimension and stated that both a new 125kW (170PS) 1.6-litre DIT direct injection turbocharged engine would be offered, as would a 221kW (300PS) 2.0-litre unit.

Despite the Legacy part of the model name, this car is not as large as either the fifth or sixth generations of that car. Rather, Levorg can be considered a different name for what is effectively a wagon version of the previous Impreza. This not only gives the illusion to buyers of the car being a distinct model, but it prevents what would otherwise be seen as an outdated car remaining on sale for some years after the arrival of the latest Impreza. This also applies to the WRX and STI, which no longer have 'Impreza' as their prefix.

The Subaru brand is extremely successful in the USA and Canada but there are no plans to offer the car in these countries. As for European distribution, the UK importer announced in June 2015 that it would begin selling the car from 'the autumn'. The car went on sale in September 2015. A facelifted model reached European dealerships from the first quarter of 2017.

A further update for the Levorg was released first in the Japanese market in 2017. One of the main pieces of new technology is a self-driving system which is operable on single-lane highways. This is part of a new generation of Subaru's EyeSight driver-assistance technology. There are still two cameras, and now these 'see' lane markers and the vehicle ahead. The car is able to steer itself and remain within its lane, as well as accelerate and brake to maintain a proper distance from the vehicle in front.

The second generation Levorg should appear in 2020. The architecture changes to SGP.

The second generation Levorg should appear in 2020. It will still be built at Gunma Main but the architecture changes to SGP.

The sixth generation Legacy sedan had its world premiere at the Chicago auto show in February 2014. It uses an evolution of the previous model's platform and in US spec, features the same basic 2.5- and 3.6-litre engines and Lineartronic CVT. The Legacy/Liberty wagon was not replaced.

The Liberty model name is used in Australia, traditionally one of Subaru's largest markets.

A special model for China powered by a 2.0-litre turbo engine premiered at November 2014's Guangzhou motor show. This derivative and one powered by a 2.5-litre engine, went on sale in China the following month.

A facelifted Legacy had its world premiere at the Chicago auto show in February 2017. This is North America's 2018 model year car. The equivalent facelift for the Outback was revealed two months later at the New York auto show.

A plug-in hybrid Legacy is expected to be added to the model range, though it might be delayed until the arrival of the next generation series. That model is due in 2019. It will be on SGP and built in Japan and the US.

As Subaru still cannot seem to gain Beijing's approval for a manufacturing alliance in China, the Legacy and other models will continue to be exported there from Japan. Roughly around 30,000 vehicles a year are sold in the PRC.

Sports cars

What form the BRZ replacement will take is still not clear. It might become part of BMW and Toyota's sports cars JV, in which case, the release would be in 2019 or 2020. Under a different scenario, replacements for the 86/GT86 and BRZ would use the same architecture as the Mazda Roadster/MX-5.

The replacements for the 86/GT86 and BRZ might use the same architecture as the Mazda Roadster/MX-5.

The latest WRX had its global debut at the LA auto show in November 2013, with WRX STI following at January 2014's Detroit show. The model name would be WRX S4, Fuji Heavy Industries announced in July 2014. Unlike the previous generation range, there is no five-door hatchback, just a sedan.

An earlier preview of the replacement model premiered at the New York auto show in March 2013, in the form of the WRX concept. This design study had a carbon roof and four exhausts, the tips of which were fluorescent yellow.

North America's production WRX is powered by a 268hp 2.0-litre turbo engine (compared to a 265hp 2.5-litre engine in the old model) mated to either a six-speed manual gearbox or Sport Lineartronic CVT. The latter has an eight-speed optional shifting mode. The WRX STI is powered by a 305hp 2.5-litre turbo engine.

In Japan, where the new cars went on sale first, in August 2014, both a WRX STI and a WRX S4 are available. The power and torque outputs of the STI are 227kW (308PS) and 422Nm, while those for the S4 are 221kW (300PS) and 400Nm. The STI has a six-speed manual gearbox, while the S4 has a Lineartronic CVT.

North America's 2016 model year WRX & STI were announced in April 2015 and went on sale there in the summer. The main changes concerned optional safety equipment. This includes Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. For the 2016 model year, Subaru of America added new driver assistance and infotainment systems. For the 2017 model year, there was some new safety equipment. There is a facelift for the 2018 model year, Subaru of America having announced this in January 2017.

Subaru of America announced an even faster WRX in June 2017. This is the STI Type RA. It has just gone on sale in the USA.

An updated version of Subaru's EyeSight safety system was announced in June 2017. Japan's WRX S4 was one of the first cars to have the system.

Subaru's European importers were forced to cease bringing in the WRX STI from the fourth quarter of 2017 as the car was no longer compliant with the EC's emissions norms.

The next WRX and WRX STi should change radically: employing an electric rear axle so as to save weight and fuel.

The next generation WRX and WRX STI should change radically: employing an electric rear axle so as to save weight and fuel. The transmission is also set to become a dual clutch automatic. As is the case with the existing WRX models, the replacements will be based upon the Impreza.

A preview of the styling was likely seen at the Tokyo motor show in October 2017 which was where the Viziv Performance concept debuted. This sedan, which will probably be on sale from the first quarter of 2020, was notable for having so-called 'aero-fins' on its wheelarches (see pic). Subaru said these would reach production.

Crossovers

The second generation XV (Crosstrek or XV Crosstrek in some countries) had been expected to be manufactured in the US but the fall of the Yen versus the dollar in late 2014 is said to have made Fuji Heavy change its mind. The current model entered production in April 2017. The US is the main market, sales commencing there in August 2017 for the local 2018 model year.

A concept at the 2016 Geneva motor show provided a preview. The production model had its world premiere at the following year's Geneva. Subaru of America gave the 2018 Crosstrek its public debut at April 2017's New York auto show.

A facelifted model is due out for North America's 2021 model year, followed in CY2023 by a new generation XV/Crosstrek/XV Crosstrek. A fully electric variant is expected to be added for the 2024 model year.

The latest generation of the Forester went on sale in Japan in November 2012. Like its predecessors, the Forester is a C-segment wagon that is marketed as a crossover.

In Japan, the standard engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, which comes in naturally aspirated or turbocharged form. Transmissions are either six-speed manual or Lineartronic CVT.

The fifth generation Forester is expected to be revealed by mid-2018.

In North American markets, the car was new for the 2014 model year. It went on sale there in March 2013 powered by a standard 2.5-litre engine, with a 2.0-litre turbo optional. The 2015MY Forester saw some changes to standard equipment but was otherwise carried over. There were some small changes for the 2016 model year and a minor facelift for the 2017 model year.

Europe's Forester had its regional debut at the Geneva motor show in March 2013. The diesel Forester also had a global debut at the show. It went on sale across Europe in the following months.

Forester assembly would take place in Malaysia, just-auto.com reported in May 2014. This commenced in February 2016. The model is assembled alongside the XV, and these are both built from CKD kits. The facility's total capacity is 20,000 units, and the vehicles put together there are sold in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. The plant is operated by Tan Chong International.

A facelifted Forester went on sale globally from the fourth quarter of 2015.

The fifth generation Forester is expected to be revealed by mid-2018 and to then go on sale in the US, its anticipated largest market, in the fourth quarter of the year.

Subaru seems unlikely to fit its boxer diesel engine to this model. As for the architecture, this will be SGP.

The Outback, which in North America offers the same two engines as the Legacy, had its world premiere at the New York auto show in April 2014. It went on sale in North America in June 2014 for that region's 2015 model year. This is a hugely successful vehicle in the USA.

There could also be an Outback PHEV but a diesel seems unlikely.

The next generation Outback is due to be released for North America's 2020 model year, although there is a chance it might be shown later in 2018 and then go on sale during the first few months of CY2019. Production will again take place at Lafayette in the US and at Gunma Main in Japan. SGP will be the architecture.

There could also be an Outback PHEV but a diesel seems unlikely.

A replacement for an SUV which ceased production in January 2014 was finally confirmed by the then Fuji Heavy Industries (now Subaru Corporation) in September 2015.

The 4,998mm long Ascent, revealed at the LA auto show in November 2017, has seven or eight seats and will be sold only in North America. The Australian importer has told locally based media that no RHD build is expected. That country is one of Subaru's best markets behind the US and Japan.

Production of this, the largest Subaru yet, will be at an expanded Indiana plant. Subaru has had an additional 100,000 units of capacity since Toyota Camry production ended there in 2016. The firm has added a further 100,000 units of new capacity so Subaru of Indiana is now able to make a bit more than half a million vehicles a year compared to just 300,000 Subarus in 2015. Officially, the plant's capacity will be 514,000 a year by the time Ascent production commences.

The US plant's capacity will be 514,000 vehicles a year by the time Ascent production commences.

A preview concept, the 5,200mm long Viziv 7, premiered at the 2016 LA auto show. Its wheelbase was a lengthy 2,990mm. A second prototype, the Ascent concept, premiered at the New York auto show in April 2017. This was also when the formerly rumoured Ascent model name was confirmed.

The factory in Lafayette was reorganised in 2017 so as to prepare for Ascent production. The big SUV will be put together on the plant's A-line. This is where the Outback and Legacy have been made. Before the first Ascents start coming down A-line, Outback production is being shifted to the B-line, which builds the Outback and Impreza.

Series production of the Ascent is due to commence in May. This will be the first Subaru for a 260hp 2.4-litre flat-four engine.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans is available in PLDB from QUBE.

The next OEM to have its current and future passenger vehicles looked at will be Tesla.