AUSTRALIA: Emissions, consumption, threaten Subaru 'boxer' AWD image

By just-auto.com editorial team | 13 November 2007

Tightening emissions standards and a desire to cut fuel consumption are putting the key identifiers of the Subaru range in Australia - all-wheel drive and 'boxer' (horizontally-opposed) engines - under threat, according to a local industry publication.

Subaru Australia has built up a premium-brand 'all wheel drive' image by shunning the in-line engines and two-wheel drive Subaru offers elsewhere but, according to GoAuto News, may soon have to reconsider its position.

Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior told GoAuto: "Those core technologies are a key part of the brand. That is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

"Where there will need to be discussion and debate internally is if we develop environmentally friendly technology like an electric car or hybrid car or whatever, that may not be true to our core technology.

"We would have to sit down one day and discuss whether that fits into that strategy. If not, do we look at changing that?"

Senior reportedly emphasised that Subaru Australia was committed to AWD and boxer engines for the present but added that may not always be the case.

When managing director in 2002, Trevor Amery, now Subaru Australia chairman, told GoAuto that the company was fully committed to the AWD/boxer engine combination and was confident that would apply until at least 2010.

"One of the reasons we chose to become an all-wheel drive company only was so that we wouldn't confuse people with our message - and these are some of the things that are going to stand us in good stead for some time," he said at the time.

"The fact is, for a long, long time - as far as I can see - we will be the only all all-wheel drive car company and we're so proud of our technology and our system and the benefits to the customer with our all-wheel drive, that we put it in all our cars, not just one," he told GoAuto in 2002.

Senior reportedly said existing Subaru models would continue to run AWD and boxer engines, while a new smaller and more economical vehicle could be the one without one or both of the features.

GoAuto said achieving certain fuel efficiency goals with both AWD and boxer engines could be problematic for Subaru as AWD adds driveline weight, which can have a big impact on fuel consumption. The issue with flat boxer engines is that Subaru does not produce any smaller than 1.5 litres though there is a 660cc inline unit that could perhaps form the basis of a hybrid drivetrain.

Subaru is also working on all-electric cars and has recently developed a 'boxer' diesel. GoAuto noted that Australia is Subaru's third largest market after Japan and the US.