Subaru Wants To Shed “Quirky” Image, Broaden Mainstream Appeal

Subaru Wants To Shed “Quirky” Image, Broaden Mainstream Appeal

Osamu Namba, Subaru‘s new design chief wants to help move the company from a cult brand adored by outdoorsy types, Snowbelt buyers and performance enthusiasts into a mainstream brand capable of competing with offerings from major automakers.

“We want to broaden the appeal to make it accessible to more than a small, loyal crowd,” Namba said in an interview with Automotive News. According to Namba, form has traditionally followed function at Subaru, as their design was dictated by the low-mounted boxer engines, tall roofs (designed to help haul large items like bikes and other lifestyle gear) and sometimes outlandish wings and air scoops, necessitated by the rally-inspired performance items like big brakes and turbochargers.

Namba, who previously ran an independent design studio, was hired by Subaru after previous attempts at developing a unifying design language, faced a strong negative reaction from consumers. One review for the Subaru Tribeca famously called the new winged front fascia a “flying vagina”.

Using the current Legacy and Outback as a template, future Subarus will be more accessible, but also bolder, with fewer soft curves and more muscular styling, eschewing the understated and functional designs of the past. “I don’t want it to be just something serious and boring,” Namba says. “A lot of people don’t know that Subaru brand. If we can make styling more accessible, it will bring them in.

[Source: Automotive News]

  • Chad

    Great, ruin a great product. I sense a big FAIL in their future, as they alienate their current loyal fan base.

  • wendy

    Its not the styling, its the 4 wheel drive ALL the time making it a gas hog that makes it less appealing. Give me a traditional looking outback with optional 2 wheel/4 wheel drive and I’m sold.

  • Cudds

    @ wendy
    WTF are you talking about? I get 30 MPG (at least) on the highway in my Forester.

  • kevin

    Essentially Namba has gotten a little power hungry, his company is becoming so profitable he’s following into the outdated mantra of expand or fail. Unfortunately what he has just told me is that he’s going to sacrific performance for looks, and appeal to the blind sheep that are our public.

    Alas my principle based economic car company was too good to be true, goodbye my sweet prince.

  • Andy

    There goes the neighborhood.

    Every report I’ve seen indicates that the 2010 Outback’s handling and steering were “mushy” compared to its predecessor as a result of the Outback getting “beefed up” into the crossover SUV class. Now we have that to look forward to across their entire product line.

  • Matt

    Ironic that their advertising has been “It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru” since they seem to want to make a Subaru a Toyota. Also, a lot of their advertising has been about Subaru’s loyal customer base, which they also apparently don’t care about at all. Half of what I love about Subarus is gone already. What’s next, boxer engines? All wheel drive? Quality? That’s all that’s left! And those are the expensive things to engineer. Frameless windows, weatherband radio, and headlights that turn on and off with the ignition (no complicated light sensor) were the easy things to do differently. Is there anyone out there anymore who believes that the way everyone else does it is not necessarily the best way to do it?

  • Greg-O

    I agree. Nice way to mess stuff up. That idiot Namba does not understand that the “cult” following is growing and to undermine the great styling of the past, with some Toyota-ish boring looking cars, is to put the company’s performance in serious jeopardy. I loved my 2005 Outback XT Turbo. Even though I bought a Honda Civic Si to replace it, I have thought of going back to a WRX, but only if they keep that cool looking hatchback.
    I foresee some dull looking cars in the future, just like Toyota’s look now and the way Honda’s used to look up until about 2 yrs. ago.

  • Michael

    I can understand the desire to sell more cars, but the current (and past) models are good-looking enough. They could run more promotions on what is already out there. The inherent advantages of Subarus over “normal” cars are obvious to anyone who bothers to educate one’s self; or if they don’t, Subaru could do a better job of getting the points across above and beyond the “we’re safe” commercials. An Outback doesn’t need to be just a better Toyota Highlander. Lower the price, SOA- that will sell more cars!
    -owner of 3 Subarus

  • Keith

    The design or looks isn’t the way to broaden the appeal. I live in California & have a 2005 Outback. I had planned to buy a new one this year. The new one is a disappointment for someone like me who lives in a hot climate, doesn’t need the ground clearance but wants a wagon that handles well. The softer ride & mushy steering kept me from buying it. All they would have to do is bring over the wagon model from Japan that has the STI suspension & I’d be first in line to buy one. They say wagons don’t sell here but with a good marketing plan they could sell a ton of them outside the snow belt.