According to a new report from Reuters at the 2011 Detroit auto show, Subaru executives are planning their first hybrid model for the United States in 2013. Sound familiar?
That’s because one year ago in Detroit, Masatsugu Nagato, the director of the board of Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru’s parent company, promised its first hybrid in 2012. “New cars are coming and hybrid is coming,” Nagato was quoted in the New York Times. “So, we want to make it the same timing. From a development point of view, it is very convenient.”
HybridCars.com has been tracking Subaru’s hybrid announcements for a few years. In May 2009, when Subaru first announced plans to introduce a gas-electric hybrid car by 2012, readers of this website responded with enthusiasm. Family Guy wrote, “I want it. My 2002 Outback will be 10 years old by 2012. Now, I can look forward to the possibility of replacing my Subaru with a hybrid from Subaru. Woo!” But others appeared tired of waiting. TS wrote, “We leased a 2005 Outback, hoping they’d have a hybrid by the time the lease was up. Didn’t happen. Too bad. Bought a Prius now. They missed a window.” William admonished Subaru, “Toe dipping in the hybrid pool is useless.”
In the past few years, Subaru has:
- Shown the Subaru B5 TPH (for Turbo Parallel Hybrid) two-seat concept car
- Tested its diminutive Subaru R1e all-electric two-seat city car in the U.S.
- Launched the limited-run R1e-derived Subaru Stella 50-mile EV in Japan. (According to Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, the Stella will be killed off in March.)
- Repeated displayed the Subaru Tourer concept
Before Subie fans give up all hope on an all-wheel drive high-mpg hybrid, take notice of a report last week from U.K.’s Autocar website, indicating that Subaru will eventually roll out a number of styling changes that “are likely to feature on a string of new cars, including the Subaru version of the Toyota FT-86 sports coupé and a hybrid variant of the Legacy.” The report says that in 2013, Subaru will incorporate the looks of a new Impreza Concept “into a new Legacy hybrid that makes use of Toyota technology.” The Toyota hybrid system is likely to use a 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer engine in unison with a CVT gearbox, according to Autocar.
Yet, Tom Doll, chief operating officer of Subaru of America, throws a wet blanket on any enthusiasm for a Legacy hybrid in the United States. On Monday, Doll said hybrids could improve Subaru’s brand image, but that he was happy with the carmaker’s current product line-up. “We’re going to need something at some point, even (only) to say we have it because that enhances our brand image in the market,” Doll told Reuters in an interview at the Detroit auto show yesterday.
Even higher gas prices apparently won’t change Doll’s mind. “If gas prices increase moderately and they stay in this $3 range, we have the products that can compete very, very well in the segments that we compete in,” he said. “Because remember, hybrids are only 2 percent of the market. And everybody has them out here (at the auto show) so it’ll be interesting to see how that all shakes out in the market.”
Check back here in one year, when Subaru announces plans for a future hybrid or electric car at next year’s Detroit auto show.