Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Subaru: The Most Baffling Brand In America

As a fan of excellent design this blog is an ardent supporter of the idea that if you make a great design they will come. A great design will usually yield benefits in sales for the brand and it doesn't even have to be beautiful, a properly boxy SUV or pickup can work just as well. With that in mind this blog was a pretty big fan of the fourth generation (2003-2009) Subaru Legacy and Outback. Featuring a crisp and sophisticated design far beyond your standard midsize, the Legacy could have passed as a near premium product. Its Subaru signature all wheel drive, decent interior and stronger than usual available engines let it play in a niche between mainstream and entry level luxury. Unfortunately for Subaru that generation had niche sales figures as well. A funny thing happened next, Subaru design deserted the brand but its sales have surged ever since. It's not hard to figure out the design direction of almost any brand as some lean towards bold, outrageous and swoopy. Others are clean, sharp and lean towards conservative while others still are boxy and purposeful. Subaru design direction on the other hand is impossible to read, its cars lack true beauty, clean lines nor do they make a bold statement. The brand has just enough awkwardness sprinkled throughout to separate itself from mainstream. The Subaru redesign philosophy seems to consist of blowing up its cars in every dimension and adding enough random jagged lines to meet a mandated quota. There are definitely some very redeeming qualities about Subaru that have certainly helped its surging sales over the past few years but it baffles this blog to see Subaru so hot with so little eye towards design*. Nevertheless it certainly looks like Subaru knows what it's doing in the US as it successfully escapes the sales dead zone between mainstream and luxury.


* In WRX/STI form the Impreza does have some style but those models aren't driving Subaru sales. There is hope, the 2015 Legacy and Outback models show a nice design improvement over the last generation.

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