Ask The Best And Brightest: Why Did Subaru Rule 2009?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Subaru wasn’t the only automaker who bucked the misery in 2009, but it was one of the most consistent sales performers month after month. As a longtime Subaru aficionado, my initial diagnosis was that Subaru moved upmarket just as its brand equity was peaking. The brand’s new, flashier interiors, along with upsized redesigns of the Forester and Outback may not have been my cup of 30-weight, but they put the brand on more shopping lists among the automotive mainstream. That’s at least part of the message of Automotive News [sub]’s dissection of Subaru’s strong year, as Subie insiders reveal that more tech toys, better rear legroom and more “sophistication” were important in making Subaru products live up to the inherent “premium-ness” of their AWD platforms.

But, they say, the opposite was also true. Subaru had intended to push the brand even farther upmarket by loading its new Legacy/Outback with luxury frills, and even contemplating a true luxury car. Subaru dealers, according to AN [sub], were at least partially responsible for pushing the brand away from luxury and towards value. “It was one of the best-kept secrets for 20 years — ever since they went to their platform of all-wheel-drive cars,” explains one dealer. “Now that it is priced at or lower than a front-wheel-drive car, people understand that this is a hell of a deal.” It seems that to at least some extent, Subaru has become successful by walking an unoccupied line between capability, value and premiumness, proving in the process that niche brands can survive in America.

How do you explain Subaru’s success?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Davekaybsc Davekaybsc on Dec 30, 2009

    I'll be happy to challenge anyone who thinks a RWD car with a limited slip diff and some snows can match my A6 Quattro on snow and ice. With torsen Quattro there's no need to waste money on snow tires, or put up with the annoying thrumming they make at highway speeds and the shitty dry handling. My Pole Positions are on year round, and I've never felt the need to bother with snows even in the absolute worst conditions. Steep driveway? No problemo.

    • Power6 Power6 on Dec 30, 2009

      The 2WD whiners were the only ones talking out of their butts until you showed up. You don't even need Torsens to get going in snow even the lousyest AWD will do. Oh but then there is stopping and turning which the precious Torsens won't help you with. If you used a performance winter tire, you would find that they actually beat all-seasons on pavement as well as snow and ice. ( Does you challenge include stopping and turning test, AWD doesn't help there;-) As a youth I did succeed in getting my Mom's Torsen center and vacuum locker-rear Quattro Audi stuck in snow, the all-seasons couldn't handle it, but I did intentionally drive down a crusty unplowed road...

  • Facebook User Facebook User on Dec 30, 2009

    I bought my 05 STi new because it was a good bang/$ at the time (for a new car). I bought snow tires as I would for ANY car. I haven't gotten stuck yet. I even keep the summer/OEM tires on the original rims & bought rims for the snow tires as well (steel/heavy rims). Do I need the AWD? Probably not....but it is a fun car irregardless and that is why I bought it.

  • Carlson Fan Carlson Fan on Dec 30, 2009

    Sorry but my wife had an Audi with Quattro equipped with M+S tires on it. That's how the local Audi dealer orders all their cars. It wasn't as good as my RWD '81 Olds Cutlass Supreme in snow and ice. And my Cutlass didn't have limited slip or snow tires on it.

    • Power6 Power6 on Dec 30, 2009

      M+S are not snow tires, it is just a rating for all-seasons. I really have to question "not as good" I can come close to your comparison, I did drive my '87 Grand National for a short time with snows in the winter, and it had factory LSD option. I had the wastegate cranked down to lowest boost. My Moms 89 Audi 80 Quattro easily had it all over the Buick in the snow, without even locking the rear diff. It is a matter of simple physics that an AWD car can get going in snow faster and easier than a 2WD on the same tires. The debate is over tire choice, is AWD needed etc. You seem to be in a debate with physics. I salute you for that brave sir. To illustrate my point I recall getting through the worst of conditions in my buddies 88 Bronco in 4WD. And that thing had NO TREAD on the tires, just ridges of off-roadiness on the egde. no 2WD could have done that on those tires. Yes stopping and turning was frightening...

  • Power6 Power6 on Dec 30, 2009

    I am one of those customers, I bought a new WRX this year. Easier to justify AWD when it helps put the power down even in the dry. Subaru engineers their cars to be useful for their customers, not to win comparison tests (see Mazdaspeed3 for that) and the sales seem to be proving that out. I do think turbocharging and the WRX has done a lot for Subarus image, they have more utility and sport going on that any SUV out there. Subaru walks a fine line with price and value...there are endless discussions about whether the WRX/STI cost too much on the forums. I actually think that they have made two mistakes though that will come back to haunt them: 1.)using a fully hard molded plastic dash in the Impreza. It looks ok but seems chintzy and rattles like crazy. 2.)going for the tall/SUV look with the new Legacy. The last gen looking so good must have been a fluke. They should have stayed with a sleeker car. They already have the tall boy Forrester and the Tribeca SUV. Maybe abandoning turbo power for the most part in the new Legacy will come back to bite them as well. And damn that lousy paint and horrible stereo system Sounds like I am complaining, but I am not, the good parts of the Subaru WRX are very good.