Should Subaru Build Ascent-Baja To Cash In On Mid-Size Truck Craze?
The mid-size pickup market is hot and Subaru doesn’t have an offering in this segment for consumers. Should they build a new truck to compete with Japanese rivals Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline and GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado? Then there are new models coming with the Ford Ranger and a new Jeep Wrangler-based pickup due in 2019.
Subaru could build a new mid-size pickup to compete in this popular segment, but should they? Subaru has created a niche market with their all-wheel-drive small wagon, SUV, and crossover, Outback, Forester, and Crosstrek. They are setting new records every year and they’ve got a good thing going.
Remember the Subaru Baja compact pickup? Subaru unveiled the first model in January 2001 at the North American International Auto Show. The Baja was the spiritual successor to the smaller Brat pickup, and like the Brat, Baja was based on Subaru’s wagon platform. But Baja had some serious issues. The small Baja pickup never sold well and had some flaws. There was no middle seat and it could only haul four people, and only a small portion of the rear bulkhead (the mid-gate) folded for cargo. The bed was small, and the ride height was only 7.3-inches but by the end of production was raised to 8.4-inches.
New Ascent-Baja mid-size pickup
Subaru doesn’t need to resurrect the Baja as it was, but they could still use the nameplate and build a new Ascent-Baja mid-size pickup. Like Baja that used Subaru’s wagon platform as the vehicles starting point, the Japanese automaker could use the new Ascent SUV as the mid-size trucks launching platform. Cut off the back, make a few exterior design changes and you’ve got a good-looking 4-door Subaru all-wheel-drive truck for Americans. It could be manufactured right alongside the new Ascent 3-Row family hauler in Indiana. It could be offered with their new 2.4-liter direct injection four-cylinder boxer.
Slotting a smaller pickup into a lineup is tricky. Subaru would need to build in on the bigger Ascent platform with weight-saving materials and fuel-economy technology, that could push the price up too high. Subaru is a small automaker compared with its large competitors like Nissan, and Toyota who produce the popular Frontier and Tacoma pickups.
Subaru Corporation has limited resources and they only have so much extra money for R&D to go around. Subaru has been focused on developing their new global platform, their Ascent 3-Row SUV, they have a new plug-in hybrid coming later this year, and they are developing all-electric technology and it's stretching their resources thin. Will Subaru build a new Ascent-Baja mid-size pickup to compete with the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline, and new Ford Ranger? It’s fun to think about, but not likely.
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Photo credit: Subaru Global