Subaru - No More A Fringe Player In The UK Says MD

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

  • New 2-litre 160PS engine for saloons and 5-doors
  • WRX and STI models get new high-torque 2.5 litre turbo engine
  • New STI Spec D, (D for Discreet) limited edition model to be added to the range
  • No 2006 UK Motor Show for Subaru - new London flagship dealership and exhibition centre instead

At this week’s press launch of the new Subaru Impreza range Peter Kinnaird, Subaru’s UK Managing Director said, "We expect the new Impreza to make a significant contribution towards the growth of the brand in the UK. Until now the halo effect of the turbocharged Impreza WRX and STI models which ape the World Rally Car has not really happened for us with our other four and five door models."

"In the days of the restrictive import quotas on cars from Japan, selling up to 8,000 units a year meant we only imported the expensive ones. Today it is a different matter and we must broaden the appeal of the brand overall and the Impreza models to a wider audience. Now introducing the new Impreza it gives us the real opportunity to do so and no longer will be a fringe player in the UK market."

"To date the WRC programme has meant that for homologation purposes somewhat large aids to down-force have crept on to production versions. In turn that has given the Impreza a very strong appeal to a narrow group of extreme enthusiast owners."

Kinnaird continued, "From now on our own marketing programme, which might include television advertising, and our dealer promotions and activities, will be focused on selling other Impreza models from the new range rather than just the WRC look-alikes. We are moving towards becoming a premium brand without premium prices. We don’t want to be a small car - small profit importer so vehicles like the Subaru Justy will have no part in our future plans."

"The Subaru range is one of the best-kept secrets in the car industry; no longer will that be the case. Our four and six cylinder ‘boxer’ engines and AWD systems are the DNA of Subaru and we must get Subaru more front-of-mind to increase our share of the new car market. We need to give people a wide choice of models and we will look at whether our models need such equipment as large spoilers and such like. Customers want what they want and we must provide models that do that."

"Rallying is a core part of Subaru’s future activities but the country-set for instance are not interested in the WRX STI performance image, they like the AWD aspect of the brand and that is something we must promote more. Having no diesel engine option is an issue but there are enough new customers out there who will want our new range of cars."

He added, "At the start of this year we had 85 dealers, by the end of it we will have 100 and next year we will add a further 10 to15. One of those will be a flagship site in London. We in partnership with a new dealer, or as a landlord leasing prestigious premises to a dealer, or with a directly owned dealership, will set up a retail showroom and Subaru exhibition site instead of taking part in the re-located 2006 British International Motor Show. The half million pounds or so it would cost us to attend the show can be better spent promoting the Subaru brand and products directly to customers in London 365 days a year."

"Last year we sold 8,800 Subaru cars in the UK, this year it will be around 9,250 and in 2006 I am aiming for 11,000 sales which is entirely possible with our new range and the additional Subaru Tribecca SUV models to be introduced late next year. We feel the Subaru range should be attracting 12,000 to 15,000 customers annually and we have the potential to reach 20,000 annual UK sales in five years. In a diminishing UK new car market our number one mission is to make more people want more of our products but it is vitally important that we and our dealers retain our existing customers as well seeking out conquest sales. We think television advertising will get the Subaru message across to current and new customers. Event sponsorship will not do that for us and if we get involved in a wide range of promotional activities we will spread our limited marketing budget too thinly for it to have the required impact."

"With the launch of our new non-turbocharged 2.0-litre Impreza four, and often forgotten five door models, each with 35PS more power, we have a genuinely sporting AWD car with prices starting at just £16,200 on the road."

"The 230PS WRX saloon and five-door versions and the 281PS STI Type-UK turbocharged models have their 2.0-litre engines replaced with a new high torque 2.5-litre unit from the latest Subaru Forester range. Performance times are quicker and engine emissions are lowered. With improved specification levels and the new exterior styling, prices now range from £20,900 to £26,995. Overall for the entire range the average price increase is £600, less than three per-cent."

Kinnaird added, "Early in the New Year we will introduce a special STI Spec-D version with 300 units initially available. The specification has to be finally decided so the price is not known yet. This car is aimed at people like me - D stands for discreet, no bright blue paintwork, big rear spoiler or gold coloured wheels. The Type D will come with beautifully restrained grey metallic paintwork, nice alloy wheels, a much smaller rear boot spoiler, sober black leather interior, more sound deadening, satnav and an upgraded stereo system. It is for customers who want the performance of the 158mph WRX STI, but not the high profile looks."

Published 7 October 2005 Melanie Carter

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