The SUV craze of the 1990s caught Subaru by surprise. The company simply did not have a product that everyone wanted. The North American division of Fuji Heavy Industries had no choice but to play the cards they were dealt. The engineers looked into the VW Golf Country 4×4 for inspiration, then took a Legacy wagon and lifted it, added some molding, big fog lights with mesh screens, and a roof rack. The marketing people ingeniously called it the Outback and hired the best known Aussie in America, Paul Hogan, to promote it.
The results of this marketing brilliance were sales that exceeded expectations, possibly saving the company. The Outback was such a huge hit Volvo and Audi followed suit and jacked up their own wagons, creating the Cross Country XC and the allroad quattro. At the 2014 New York International Auto Show, with yours truly in attendance, two models first dressed as vegan organic French-press coffee drinking hipster hikers, and later as that blissfully ignorant well-dressed couple that every thirty year old yuppie think they will always be, unveiled the fifth generation of the Outback.
The long-awaited return of Peugeot Citroen to North America could be in the form of their new premium DS brand, but don’t get your hopes up just yet.
One of the frequent themes discussed on TTAC is the rising inequality of the mainstream car market in Europe. Since the Great Financial Crisis, Europe’s auto market has not only undergone a severe contraction in terms of volume, but also a radical shift in its composition.
“Take BMW. In the near term, they will have nine entries in the compact segment. This is basically our heartland,” he told me on the sidelines of the Paris auto show. “With the brand reputation they have, you start to have a massive problem.”
-Gunnar Herrmann, Ford of Europe’s Vice President of Quality
Ah, segment analysis. Each automaker has its own product strategy, and none of them are designed to make apples-to-apples comparisons easy. So we’ve lumped large family sedans from automakers with a mass-market sedan positioned above their mainline D-segment sedan (Impala, Azera, Avalon, Taurus) in with entry-premium FWD cars like the ES350 and Buick LaCrosse. Since we’re comparing a nebulous segment anyway, we threw in the entire sales performances from entry-premium brands like Volvo, Saab and Acura. Not a perfect comparison in many ways (Impala would be better compared to the D-segment sedans below, for starters), but then we’re not charging you a damn consulting fee, are we?