In Detroit, Subaru Makes Annual Promise of a Future Hybrid

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

    Contradictory Reports

    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.


    • Eric

      Sounds like Mr Doll has his head in the sand.

    • abasile

      I am another former Subaru Legacy Outback driver who now has a Prius. If you want/need AWD, getting above 30 mpg is near to impossible with today’s offerings. That needs to change!

    • Michael Matteucig

      Dear Sir:

      I agree with you. Apparently Mr. Doll has been paid off by the “oilgarchs.” For the life of me, I do not understand why Subaru-Japan does not oversee that which occurs in the U.S. I too will be going Prius. I have no other choice. I love my 2001 Outback with manual transmission; unfortunately, mileage is far too low for my commuting needs.

    • Hybrid cars

      interesting about contradictory report…

    • greg

      Does anyone really need awd? Just get any high mileage car of your choosing and buy a set of studdless snow/ice tires for the winter. Problem fixed…

    • vw

      VW also only presents hybrids but we never see one of them in the street. Maybe under porsche names, but nothing real for the common guy like must of the people.

    • Mr. Fusion

      Greg: What part of the country do you live in? Ever own a 4×4? Ever driven it in a blizzard?

      Take a look at the weather report for New England today.
      Although I do agree with you that snow tires make a huge difference, I wouldn’t pull out of the driveway today without AWD or 4WD. And yes, I do have to drive today.

      I owned a ’93 BMW 325i with a set of Dunlop Graspics and it did great in the snow, but not nearly as great as my wife’s Rav4 or my Tundra with all season tires. Oh…and the extra ground clearance helps!

    • Ralph

      Obviously Greg above does not live in the rural northern Midwest. I’d love a AWD Subaru. Yes, I suppose I could spring for a Lexus SUV for $60,000, but I’d prefer better mileage than what that gets.

      So what is so difficult about pairing hybrids and AWD? Is the CVT not compatible with it?

    • PaulRivers

      Just wanted to add that I *love* the entirely accurate headline on this article. :-)

    • Anonymous

      Greg / Mr. Fusion,

      Lets put it this way – from the people who think they need an AWD, I would say 90% don’t and 10% do. Where I live many people claim they need an AWD for their daily commute to the city. This is BS – yes there is once in a while a ‘crazy snowstorm’ that dumps the incredible amount of 3” snow on the road. But with good tires you can handle this even with FWD (I guess many lack winter driving skills or just freak out) – but this is not a reason do drive all year round with AWD. And if it really gets really bad (the one day every other year) – call in sick, work from home, …

    • Anonymous

      new legacy gets 31 mpg hw

    • greg

      Didn’t think I would get such a response to my comment. I think “anonymous” sums it up better than I did. People buy AWD or 4×4 when they don’t really need it. I live in Oregon and drive weekly into the cascades to go x-country skiing. I drive a 98 honda civic hatchback with bridgestone blizzaks. Snow tires do indeed make a HUGE difference and it’s all most people need. Carry chains if you need something more. People rarely drive in a real blizzard. Yes, I do drive in snowing conditions quite a bit. If it’s a true blizzard, I’m staying at home.

    • Subie Smoked a Dooby

      HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SUBARU!

      I can’t wait for next years “Hybrid in 2014″ announcement.

      “In Detroit, Subaru Makes Annual Promise of a Future Hybrid”

    • David B

      What a doofus Doll is. Are you telling me that gas will stay under $3.00 a gallon this year? It is predicted to jump as high as $5.00 dollars by the end of next year. With more Chinese and Indians, two of the largest populate d countries, buying more cars gas will go up no doubt. It just sounds like he is playing the cover my rear game. Subaru deserves what they get in lost market share, you do not do it for brand share growth, but mindshare and work out the kinks on your first generation hybrid. VW and Subaru need to get their act together.

    • David B

      What a doofus Doll is. Are you telling me that gas will stay under $3.00 a gallon this year? It is predicted to jump as high as $5.00 dollars by the end of next year. With more Chinese and Indians, two of the largest populate d countries, buying more cars gas will go up no doubt. It just sounds like he is playing the cover my rear game. Subaru deserves what they get in lost market share, you do not do it for brand share growth, but mindshare and work out the kinks on your first generation hybrid. VW and Subaru need to get their act together.

    • FamilyGuy

      I’ll be the first to admit that the AWD comes in handy about 1% of the time and is just fun to drive the other 99% of the time (3-4 snow storms a year?, that’s just 1%). I’ll tell you what, my Subaru has never gotten stuck getting into or out of the driveway that hasn’t been shovel and has been plowed in by the street plows. That car goes right through it every time. We’ve had an Altima Hybrid (which I love, too, but for different reasons) and it’s gotten stuck twice in the two years that we’ve owned it. Aside from the AWD, the fact that it’s a wagon is huge. Not many wagons to choose from and I’m happy to Subaru still offers them, or rather used to. Now the new Outbacks aren’t wagons anymore, they are SUV’s and I’m not going there.

      Nonetheless, I know that I can do better then the low 20′s MPG in my next family car. The trade off will be it won’t be as fun to drive.

    • Dom

      Come on Subaru, forget hybrids… bring the new boxer diesel you were promising us!! That’s a Subaru I would buy.

    • Richard Poor

      I have been campaigning in vain for years for a plug in hybrid electric Subaru AWD Forester. Combine the boxer diesel with electric motor for the rear wheels and eliminate the fluid AWD box to make room for batteries. Goofy for Subaru to not do this. Prius when pushed is lousy.
      Having driven everything from a 4 spd 1969 GTO with studded snow tires to a 2002 Subaru Forester, a 2WD Chevy Silverado and a 4WD Toyota Tacoma in ice and snow on hills, here are my opinions:
      snow tires make a difference
      studs or chains make a bigger difference
      without studs or chains, 4WD Tacoma wins
      AWD Subaru is a close second and more versatile…

    • Richard Poor

      It may very well be Hyundai will have the first best PHEV SUV and maybe AWD and diesel electric!

    • Francesca Grifo

      Very soon I will have to part with my beloved aging Outback. For me it is the size, the reliability, the sturdiness, the clearance and the fact that I can fit me, my spouse, two teenage boys and a dog more than the all wheel drive. Still no hybrid with decent gas mileage that fits us all. Oh and we do love our Prius – but the hatchback is too low for our black lab to be comfortable back there and as my boys are still growing – I fear the Prius back seat may not contain them for long either!

    • Hybrid Cars – USA

      Would, this kind of road test information would boost buyers confidence?

    • vamoose

      In fairness to Subaru, it is far more difficult for a company of this size to do the R&D needed for a completely new model than Toyota, Honda, Nissan or Ford. Outside the snow states, they don’t sell a lot of cars! They already have a successful diesel in Europe. It would need to be adapted to meet US emmission standards, but this would be a lot cheaper than a new hybrid design. I also like the relative simplicity and lower cost of a diesel vs. hybrid.