The new Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept is cool—but Subaru fans are losing patience with the company’s hybrid promises.
If ever there was an automotive brand that embodied the spirit of hybrid cars—urban, progressive, outdoorsy, family-oriented—it would be Subaru. Furthermore, Toyota, the hybrid leader, owns 16 percent of Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars. Yet, loyal Subaru owners continue to wait in vain for the Japanese company, whose name translates to “unite,” to delivers on its promise to go hybrid.
In May 2009, Subaru announced plans to introduce a gas-electric hybrid car by 2012—but provided no details. 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.”
Subaru continues to dip its toes—and retreat. A few years ago, the company unveiled the Subaru B5 TPH (for Turbo Parallel Hybrid) concept car—a sporty two-seat, all-wheel-drive grand tourer that blends elements of a coupe, sporty hatchback, and Outback sport-utility. The company has been testing its diminutive Subaru R1e all-electric two-seat city car in the US—and in August even managed to launch the R1e-derived Subaru Stella Plug-In in Japan. The tiny Stella employs a 9.2 kilowatt-hour, 346-volt lithium ion battery pack and 47-kilowatt motor to deliver a top speed of 60 mph and a driving range of about 50 miles. Unfortunately, the car sells for $48,000—minus Japanese government incentives of nearly $20,000. (Mitsubishi offers the all-electric i-MiEV at a similar price.) Subaru is producing merely 170 units of the Stella Plug-in, essentially a small test run.
In the current run up to the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show approaches, some hybrid fans harbored hope that Subaru would finally pull the wraps off a practical affordable Subaru model heading to a US showroom sometime soon. Instead, the company yesterday announced plans to present the four-seat Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept, yet another hypothetical rad-cool vehicle with gull-wing doors, lithium ion batteries, and motor-generators in front and back to electrify the company’s signature all-wheel drive and direct fuel-injected Boxer engine.
The Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept, like the company’s previous concepts and hybrid announcements, will whet the appetite of eco-conscious Subie fans. At the same time, it will leave many of them wondering if Subaru will ever deliver a super-efficient ultra-safe gas-electric hybrid.