Skip to main content

If Subaru Customers Get This One Thing, It Will Radically Change The Brand

Subaru customers want one thing from the Japanese automaker, and if they get it, it will radically change the brand.


Subaru hasn’t always been a conservative brand, just look at the sporty Subaru XT two-door coupe produced from 1985 to 1991. The XT was replaced by the Alcyone SVX two-door grand tourer coupe produced from 1991 to 1996 and was Subaru’s first attempt to enter the luxury/performance car market. The XVT eventually failed and Subaru went ultra-conservative with their styling. But things are changing at Subaru.


Subaru is learning that customers want an all-wheel-drive vehicle with utility, but add in styling to the car and sales will take off. In a recent interview with WardsAuto, Subaru of America President and COO Tom Doll told them the Japanese automaker is beginning to understand they need to bring more exciting exterior designs to their all-wheel-drive SUVs.

Doll says, the second-generation Crosstrek small SUV is the hot model in the lineup because its style, as well as its utility, are its big selling points. “People buy that car (Crosstrek) for the style and the message that it sends to them, it’s something we’ve got to keep in the back of our minds as we continue to develop products going forward. You can’t underestimate the importance of styling.”

Crosstrek has opened the eyes of company execs

The Crosstrek was the only model in 2018, with a full year of sales, in the lineup with an increase over the previous year. Crosstrek sales rose 31.1 percent in 2018 to 144,384, placing the nameplate second in sales, after the Jeep Compass (171,167), in the small CUV segment, and Subaru execs are taking notice.

Matt Wherry, manager-product planning and design department at Subaru Research and Development in Tustin, CA, told WardsAuto during a discussion of the Impreza compact car, which Crosstrek shares its styling cues, “We’ve made great cars, but not necessarily the most beautiful. Now they’re really going to be emotionally appealing, to a level they haven’t been before.”

That’s good news for Subaru customers because boring styling has been a complaint from loyal Subaru fans. Wherry says it has taken a while for Subaru leaders to embrace more dramatic shapes and patterns. “We’ve done everything as well as we can, (but design) just wasn’t a priority before.”

The hot-selling 2019 Subaru Crosstrek has opened the Japanese automaker’s eyes to what their younger customers want. Subaru’s younger, more sophisticated customers want well-designed products and are buying the Crosstrek in record numbers. A more emotional, less utilitarian philosophy is taking hold within the automaker’s design studios and is reflected in the new 2019 Subaru Crosstrek CUV. Subaru is learning that if you build it, they will come. Look for new design language in Subaru’s next-generation all-wheel-drive vehicles. It could radically change the brand.

Leave your comments below, share the article with friends and tweet it out to your followers!

Follow all Subaru news on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Photo credit: Subaru


Kckay (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 10:07PM

2017 Subaru Impreza premium- worst new car I have EVER had, so many problems and continuing problems. I will never buy subaru again. I am very sad & disappointed.

Jim (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 10:42PM

My last Subaru was a 07 Subaru legacy wagon iwith a manual transmission. It was a great handling car. I finally sold it due to the uncomfortable seats. I no longer own a Subaru due to there hard seats and lack of engine options. Maybe someday they will listen.

Legacy GT (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 11:02PM

I have never seen a post where people thought Subaru's had enough power. I've had 2 Subaru's, WRX wagon / Legacy GT, both with manuals, both no longer available. Subaru doesn't care about me despite being a repeat customer because I keep cars 10+ years and they can sell more "transport appliances" bland people.

Who are these people who prefer nanny-mobiles to affordable performance?

Dave (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 11:27PM

While we're making wish lists... I don't mind the cvt on the 2018 outback, but I would like a turbo in there for extra passing power. Oh, and the auto climate control is much worse than my 2006 Saab.

Eric Robinson (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 12:43AM

I sold Subarus for 6 years, I own a 2016 Forester. Great cars, but Subaru never seems to have the guts to deliver cars that look as good as they function, or, in the case of the BRZ, they almost made a beautiful car, but it was a zero under the pedals. My Forester is more than adequate in the road, but it has the towing capacity of a bicycle. Maybe they need more Texans and more Italians at HQ and fewer N. Californians and elderly Japanese.

JGTinNJ (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 7:13AM

One feature of Subarus that is sorely lacking in other vehicles is visibility. Plain, expansive glass area. If the designers can figure out a way to make the vehicle look stylish and keep or improve visibility, more power to them. I had an older Forester that had great visibility, but a young niece said it "looked dorky". I remember some commenters saying they didn't like driving around in a Subaru because they didn't want to be seen in a fishbowl. We are powerless to affect what marketing wants to do, but please Subaru keep some niche vehicles - those with lots more power, a manual or conventional automatic transmission and the ability to see out.

Paul (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 8:38AM

I have 3 Subarus, legacy, forester, and a baja, i love all 3. The baja is my most useful utility car,. My family uses the baja most.

Jack Nachtman (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 9:32AM

I don't understand how Subaru misses what their loyal customers want, its everywhere. I see it on every post and forum. Option of more power and better transmission. We want the hatchback WRX/STI back. I do like the styling of the Crosstrek. Just need 250hp or more with options of manual or eight speed automatic. I've owned five Subarus and now own an Audi Q5 with 270hp and Quattro. Wouldn't even consider going back until Subaru figures it out.

ImpliedConsent (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 10:45AM

Subaru doesn't listen, they just read numbers. The Crosstrek would be perfect with a 200HP motor and kill the CVT. ...or at least dual range.

Mal (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 11:16AM

Crosstreck is decent for the money. BUT...under powered that's all I hear from everyone! Under-powered. Hello? Subaru's under-powered!!! The other stuff? What do expect from a 20+K vehicle?

Lee (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 11:20AM

The styling of our latest gen Outback is terrific in my opinion. The Forrester is fine if you don't mind stogy. But boy I have to hand it to Subaru stylists, their sedans are so plain-Jane, all-vanilla, boring, it's like they intentionally tried to make them as invisible as possible for bank robbers' get-a-way cars.

Dennis Prince (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 11:27AM

I have a 2018 Outback. The ONLY problem I have had has been with the Infotainment system. I have been back to the dealer three times for fixes, normally updates of the system programming. It is better but still not without problems. Subaru needs to hold the manufacturer's feet to the fire for permanent fixes going forward.

Snow Surfer (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 4:00PM

I bought my XV because it's a small, lifted hatchback with a bomber AWD sytem, from a brand with an established modding community and a mostly solid reputation for reliability. "Styling" had precisely dick to do with it, and if Subaru decides to ditch utilitarianism for emotion, I'll be ditching the brand.

Steven McClure (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 5:24PM

Just need a new SVX. Both automatic and manual. Good power with an option for more. Has to keep the jet fighter inspiration in the glass and interior. Basically needs the whole flagship idea it had before

Will (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 6:31PM

More power would be nice too. I had a 2008 Impreza hatchback with 170hp. My 2017 has a 152hp. The old car was fun to drive. Stomp the gas in the current car and it responds with "Are you sure about that?"

Ed B (not verified)    January 28, 2019 - 8:07AM

This article illustrates just how out of touch Subaru managment is here and abroad. Tom Doll's comments are a head scratcher - this is not some new idea. The Subaru design language has not evolved in a way that brings excitment to the brand. They've lost what brought them to the table in the first place. Add to that, the lack of power their cars are putting out and you've also lost the enthusiasts. How hard would it be to give each line a STI-type version? That is, at the top of each line, there should be a performance variant. The new turbo in the Ascent could be used across the line up.

Mike D (not verified)    January 28, 2019 - 10:51AM

I have had two Crosstreks already. A Tangerine Orange 2014 Crosstrek, and currently nearing the end of a lease on a Hyper Blue 2016 Crosstrek. I liked the Crosstrek and debating about getting a third one. I like the unique colors. What I don't like on the 2018+ Crosstrek are the lower profile wheels. I would most likely have them removed at the time of signing of the lease, bagged up and stored in my shed. The crater-filled roads of northeast PA will wreck those wheels before the first oil change. I would probably opt for 15" rally wheels, like the Method MR502 wheels with a set of 215/75/15 BFG K02 tires on it.
The 2019 Forester Sport is ok, but the colors are so bland. If it wasn't for the orange interior and exterior trim pieces, I wouldn't even look at it. They should have offered an exterior color option of cool khaki gray on the Forester Sport.
I also been tempted by the new Ford Ranger (supercab with longbed) but that interior is so bland and there is no way to manually override the transmission.

David G Sogge (not verified)    March 22, 2019 - 3:58PM

Get the HPs up, better seats for long haul driving and ROAD NOISE improvements. Baseball glove leather!! 2019 with the weird interior trims colors, just not a fan.