Subaru has reintroduced its A-segment Justy to the UK and Europe after an absence of up to six years. Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu is building the new car for Subaru (in which Toyota has a minority shareholding) on an 'OEM' basis. The new Justy is a rebadged Sirion (called the Boon in Japan) - and here in the UK, Subaru and Daihatsu are imported by the same company, Birmingham-based International Motors.

The Subaru and Daihatsu-distributing units operate independently (in the same office) with their own management teams and each has its own dealer network, spokesman Arthur Fairley - who handles media relations for both brands - told just-auto on Friday.

"There's a little bit of overlap," Fairley said. "Some Daihatsu dealers sell Subaru and vice-versa but there's not many and they really are separate business units in their own right."

Subaru is selling a single one-litre petrol, five-door 'R' hatchback model in Europe with a sales target of just 6,000 units a year, with 1,000 of those ear-marked for the UK.

In contrast, Fairley said, the Daihatsu Sirion - the brand's best-selling car in the UK - is sold here with a full range of petrol engines including 1.1-, 1.3- and a newly launched 1.5.

"With the Justy, it's one model only and very much low volume," he added.

Fairley said Subaru had not sold a Justy in the UK for about six years. The previous model was a rebadged Suzuki Swift, built in the Magyar Suzuki plant in Hungary, and introduced here in 1996.

He noted that that model was, however, replaced in mainland (left-hand drive) Europe by a new Justy model based on Suzuki's Ignis model, but that was never launched in the right-hand drive UK because "the sums didn't add up".

Fairley added that the two-wheel drive Ignis-based Justy - previous generations always included 4WD versions, too - was offered with a Fiat diesel engine in an arrangement that came about because of the then-current Fiat-General Motors Europe diesel engine joint venture and GM's now-sold 20% Subaru shareholding.

Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries last February said it would buy about 6,000 cars a year from Daihatsu for sale in Europe from autumn 2007, replacing Suzuki as its supplier as part of the closer ties formed after Toyota took an equity stake in Fuji Heavy in late 2005.

Suzuki and Fuji Heavy were both linked to General Motors until the US automaker sold off its 20% stake, partly to Toyota.

At the time, the Reuters news agency said Subaru, best known for all-wheel-drive cars, needed small cars in its line-up to meet voluntary targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in Europe.

Last month, sources told Japan's Kyodo News agency that Daihatsu might supply Subaru with more cars, strengthening the new alliance.

Fuji Heavy was reported to have asked Toyota to rebadge Daihatsu subcompacts for sale in Japan under the Subaru brand. Daihatsu may also supply minivehicle models to Fuji Heavy on an OEM basis, the sources said (Subaru has previously made its own).

Fuji Heavy was also considering supplying medium-size cars to Daihatsu under the deal, Kyodo News said.

Fuji Heavy manufactures Toyota's Camry sedan at its US factory in Indiana, supplementing Toyota's own US output.

The new European/UK specification Justy supermini can achieve 64.2 mpg on the official EU extra urban test cycle and its CO2 emissions of 118g/km should exempt it from London's congestion charge in the UK.

International Motors is including a five-year/60,000 mile warranty, ABS with EBD, air-conditioning, driver, passenger, side and four curtain airbags, alloy wheels, rev-counter, fuel-economy read-out, radio/CD player with auxiliary input socket, rear parking sensors, Isofix child-seat mountings, four electric windows and remote central-locking with alarm in the GBP8,495 (about $US17,000) on-the-road price tag.

In a statement, Subaru (UK) managing director Lawrence Good said: "Everyone is very enthusiastic about the new Justy as it is will appeal to environmentally-conscious motorists and those seeking ultra-low running costs.

"Subaru dealers enjoy strong customer loyalty and the new Justy gives them a much-needed entry-level car to sell to both existing customers and new prospects."

Graeme Roberts