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Mazda CX-3? Kia Seltos? Toyota C-HR? We started this SUV trend says Subaru Australia boss

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The Subaru Impreza XV arrived in 2010, arguably kicking off the car-based SUV trend.
The Subaru Impreza XV arrived in 2010, arguably kicking off the car-based SUV trend.

The world is obsessed with SUVs with almost every carmaker now from Porsche to Peugeot, not just making them, but relying on them to make money.

And in Australia this love of SUVs is clear too with three out of four new cars sold classed as SUVs. So with pretty much all brands selling mainly SUVs now, where does that leave a manufacturer like Subaru, which argues it started the trend? 

Speaking at the launch of the 2023 Subaru Outback, Subaru Australia’s managing director Blair Read said the current trend of small SUVs was started by cars such as the XV.

“I think one thing we reflect on is the market at the moment is really dominated by rugged SUVs and you look at the genesis of a number of our models and XV in a way started that small segment - it was an Impreza that was jacked up,” Blair said.

We know what you’re thinking: what about the Vitara and the RAV4? They were around long before the XV.

That's true. The thing is the XV was a car-based SUV, in the same way most SUVs are these days. The XV really was an Impreza that was jacked up. When it first arrived in 2010 it was even called Subaru Impreza XV.

In the 2010s carmakers were able to respond to the change in buyer's preference from sedans and hatches to SUVs by converting sedans and hatches to SUVs by using the same platforms. Mazda made the CX-3 out of the Mazda2, the Nissan Juke used the same underpinnings as the Micra and so on…

It was in the early-to-mid-1990s that SUVs started to become popular as regular family cars. Sure the Toyota LandCruiser and Patrol has been around long before that but models such as the Toyota RAV4, Suzuki Vitara and the Forester were part of the new wave of ‘soft-roaders’ that still came with impressive off-road capability. 

The XV really was an Impreza that was jacked up.
The XV really was an Impreza that was jacked up.

“When the Forester started 30 years ago people were like - what is this?” Blair said.

When the Forester came out in 1997 Subaru had already won the World Rally Championship with the WRX for the past two years running and would take out the manufacturers' title for the third time by the end of that year.

That success not only helped sell the WRX to the public but went a long way to ensuring other Subaru models like the Subaru Forester attained a cult-like status. Not with wannabe rally stars but part-time adventurers who wanted a car they could drive to work during the week and hard to reach camping spots on the weekends.

So where does that leave Subaru now that it seems every other carmaker has cottoned onto this formula? Is it having an identity crisis now that everybody is cashing in on their ‘thing’? What does Subaru stand for?

 "You think about the customer and what's right for the customer," Read said.

Subaru's managing director believes that the current market is dominated by rugged SUVs.
Subaru's managing director believes that the current market is dominated by rugged SUVs.

"So it’s that and giving people the ability and capability to go wherever they want in their vehicle, and do it safely, with a great performance drive that puts a smile on their face.

"The amount of engineering and thought and development which has gone into that vehicle is what makes that Subaru a Subaru.

"That’s really what Subaru stands for. It’s a combination of all those things and our history and our past and then blend them to the current range of vehicles.

"The market has followed those trends. People want a car that looks rugged and capable. A Subaru not only looks capable, but our cars do what we claim they can do. That’s what we’re proud of."

Richard Berry
Senior Journalist
Richard had wanted to be an astrophysicist since he was a small child. He was so determined that he made it through two years of a physics degree, despite zero mathematical ability. Unable to build a laser in an exam and failing to solve the theoretical challenge of keeping a satellite in orbit, his professor noted the success Richard was enjoying in the drama and writing courses he had been doing on the side. Even though Richard couldn’t see how a degree in story-telling and pretending would ever get him a job, he completed one anyway. Richard has since been a best-selling author and a journalist for 20 years, writing about science, music, finance, cars, TV, art, film, cars, theatre, architecture, food, and cars. He also really likes cars, and has owned an HQ ute, Citroen 2CV, XW Falcon, CV8 Monaro and currently, a 1951 Ford Tudor. A husband and dad, Richard’s hobbies also include astronomy.
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