Subaru Wants To Shed "Quirky" Image, Broaden Mainstream Appeal

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

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]

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  • Michael Michael on Aug 28, 2010

    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 Keith on Aug 30, 2010

    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.