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  • Writer's pictureTim Jackson

Subaru establishes itself as versatile and utilitarian for its popularity

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

Subaru is a Japan-based auto manufacturer that has come a long way since its inception in 1953. The company started as Fuji Heavy Industries, a conglomerate that manufactured airplane parts for the Japanese military. However, after the war, the company shifted its focus to manufacturing motor vehicles. The Subaru brand was officially launched in 1955, and since then it has become one of the most successful auto manufacturers brands in the world.

The success of Subaru can be attributed to its focus on innovation and quality. Subaru has been at the forefront of technology, and it was the first Japanese automaker to introduce all-wheel drive capabilities in its cars. This technology has given Subaru a significant edge over its competitors and helped it establish a reputation for producing highly versatile, go anywhere, reliable vehicles.

One of the most famous Subaru models is the Impreza, which was introduced in 1992. The Impreza quickly became popular among enthusiasts due to its rally-inspired design and impressive performance. It was also the vehicle that introduced the world to the legendary Subaru WRX, which is still considered one of the best and most affordable performance cars in the market today.

Another very iconic Subaru model is the Outback, introduced in 1994. The Outback was designed to be a rugged, off-road vehicle that could handle most any terrain. The Outback quickly became popular among outdoor enthusiasts and families due to its spacious interior and all-wheel drive capabilities.

In recent years, Subaru has continued to innovate and expand its lineup of vehicles. The company has introduced new models, such as the Ascent, a three-row SUV, and the Crosstrek, a smaller crossover. These models have helped Subaru appeal to a wider range of customers and continue to grow its market share.

Subaru's success in the automotive industry has also been due to its commitment to safety. It was one of the first automakers to feature antilock brakes and airbags. Today, all Subaru models come with advanced safety features such as EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which uses cameras and sensors to monitor the road and help prevent accidents.

In some specific states and regions in the United States, Subaru has moved from its position as 8th, 9th or 10th in volume sales as an automaker nationally, up the sales ladder to as high as 3rd or 4th in volume sales. States that Subaru outperforms its national position include but are not limited to: Colorado, Vermont, Montana, New Hampshire and Maine. For example, in Colorado its fairly normal for Subaru to rank as 3rd highest volume in new car sales, behind Toyota and Ford. At least one month in 2017, Subaru actually moved to the #1 volume sales position in Colorado, above all other automakers. It was a rare and short-lived feat, though still extremely impressive as a brand that performs much lower overall nationally.

The Atlantic ran a story in 2016 about Subaru’s, at the time, gutsy move to target lesbians as market segment. Here are excerpts from that article.

In the 1990s, Subaru’s unique selling point was that the company increasingly made all-wheel drive standard on all its cars. When the company’s marketers went searching for people willing to pay a premium for all-wheel drive, they identified four core groups who were responsible for half of the company’s American sales: teachers and educators, health-care professionals, IT professionals, and outdoorsy types.

Then they discovered a fifth: lesbians. “When we did the research, we found pockets of the country like Northampton, Massachusetts, and Portland, Oregon, where the head of the household would be a single person—and often a woman,” says Tim Bennett, who was the company’s director of advertising at the time. When marketers talked to these customers, they realized these women buying Subarus were lesbian.

“There was such an alignment of feeling, like [Subaru cars] fit with what they did,” says Paul Poux, who later conducted focus groups for Subaru. The marketers found that lesbian Subaru owners liked that the cars were good for outdoor trips, and that they were good for hauling stuff without being as large as a truck or SUV. “They felt it fit them and wasn’t too flashy,” says Poux.

Subaru’s strategy called for targeting these five core groups and creating ads based on its appeal to each. For medical professionals, it was that a Subaru with all-wheel drive could get them to the hospital in any weather conditions. For rugged individualists, it was that a Subaru could handle dirt roads and haul gear. For lesbians, it was that a Subaru fit their active, low-key lifestyle.

Although it was easier to get senior management on board with making ads for hikers than for lesbians, the company went ahead with the campaign anyway. It was such an unusual decision—and such a success—that it helped push gay and lesbian advertising from the fringes to the mainstream. People joke about lesbians’ affinity for Subarus, but what’s often forgotten is that Subaru actively decided to cultivate its image as a car for lesbians.

Subaru is a company that has come a long way since its early days as a manufacturer of airplane parts. Its focus on innovation, quality and safety has helped it become one of the most successful automotive brands in the world. The Impreza, Outback, Crosstrek and Impreza are amazing Subaru models that have helped establish the brand's reputation for producing high-performance, reliable vehicles. With its commitment to innovation and safety, and all-wheel drive reputation, Subaru is sure to continue its success for years to come.


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