You probably heard California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an order to ban gas-powered cars in the state by 2035. The directive means all new vehicles sold in California must be zero-emission vehicles by that time. Subaru has been slow in bringing an all-electric model, and its first will arrive in 2022. It's coming from the joint partnership between Subaru and Toyota. How will the announcement affect Subaru?
California's ban on sales on new gas-powered cars will force Subaru Corporation to build all-new Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent all-electric SUVs and launch them in late 2034. California is one of Subaru's largest markets, and they can’t afford to lose sales in the Golden State. According to a 2019 Subaru of America sales report, Subaru of Glendale, serving the most populous county in the nation (Los Angeles), is the number one retailer in North America.
Subaru retailers in California will pressure the Japanese automaker to bring the highest volume models in full-electric trim. The Subaru Forester is now the brand's number-one-selling model in the stable, with Outback second, and Crosstrek number three. The Ascent 3-Row family hauler is gaining the most ground in sunbelt states like California.
What are Subaru’s current electrification plans?
Subaru Corporation held a press briefing January 20, 2020 spelling out its electric vehicle plans, and changes are coming. President Tomomi Nakamura said Subaru would move quickly toward its long-term goal of a carbon-free society, setting a target to sell only electric vehicles worldwide by the first half of the 2030s.
Subaru’s plan to "sell only electric vehicles" meant they will have some form of electrification. The all-wheel-drive models will likely be hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology coming from its partnership with Toyota. Subaru is calling them "strong hybrids."
Will Subaru’s electrification plans change? The announcement from California governor Gavin Newsom won't shift their zero-emission efforts into overdrive. It could move up Subaru's timeframe to bring an all-electric Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent sooner than they planned.
Subaru is no hurry to have a zero-emissions only lineup. A recent report from Bloomberg says Subaru is waiting for other automakers to spend big money on research and development while waiting until the time is right to move. Subaru Corporation doesn't have massive research and development resources available to them like their large Japanese and American rivals. So they have chosen a wiser path in their EV development.
Subaru CEO and President of Subaru of America Tom Doll said, "If we put (them) out now, we're going to be competing in the teeth of the market with everybody else. This way, we can let them kind of sort it out, then we can come in."
Subaru's strategy is to sit back, let the big automakers spend vast amounts of money on perfecting the all-electric technology, and then when consumer demand for the vehicles picks up; they will be there when the costs of batteries have dropped drastically.
Subaru has an ace up its sleeve. Toyota now owns 20 percent of the Japanese automaker, allowing Subaru to tap its vast resources to develop the new electric technology. "That partnership and Subaru's relatively small size enables company leaders to believe they can afford to be patient," according to the report.
Look for Subaru to make all-electric 2035 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent models available in California and some Northeast coast states like they've done with the Crosstrek Plug-In Hybrid. For other U.S. states, Subaru will offer fuel-efficient gas-powered Boxer engines coupled with hybrid, and plug-in hybrid technology in its new Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent SUVs.
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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Photo credit: Subaru VIZIV Future Concept