New XV crossover will challenge the likes of Nissans Qashqai

New XV crossover will challenge the likes of Nissan's Qashqai

Lack of new product has been a major problem for Subaru's UK importer, IM Group. which has seen its sales slump from a peak of 11,600 in 2003 to around 2,500 so far this year. But that's all about to change with the launch of two completely new models next year, managing director Darren James said.

He expects sales to grow in the mid-term to around 7,000. And with that change will come a refocusing of the Subaru image as it moves away from a performance-oriented brand to one that is more 'lifestyle' oriented.

James noted that in 2003, around half of sales were of the Impreza, a car for the enthusiast. Now the sales mix is better balanced and he expects it will become richer with the arrival next year of the XV compact crossover in March, followed by the BRZ coupé - developed in conjunction with Toyota - in mid summer.

The XV was shown at Frankfurt in September while the BRZ will make its production debut at the Tokyo show at the end of November; so far it has only been shown by Subaru as an engineering cut-away at Geneva and Frankfurt although Toyota has shown its version, the FT86, in various guises [and is heavily promoting it with various teaser measures such as the current Facebook game - ed]. The FT86 will also make its production debut at Tokyo.

The importance of the XV and BRZ for Subaru is that they are expected to attract new customers to the niche brand. The XV, smaller than the current Forester, could also woo previous generation Forester owners, said Andy Masson, Subaru UK's product manager.

The XV boasts the highest ground clearance and lowest centre of gravity of any compact crossover, according to Subaru's engineers, said Masson, while the interior "is the best we've ever had - a step change".