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The Subaru Story They Don’t Want You To Read

Subaru doesn’t think you are ready for an all-EV lineup. Why is Subaru taking a slow is safe approach with the 2020 Outback, Forester, Crosstrek, and Ascent models?


Subaru doesn’t think you would buy an all-electric Outback, Forester, Crosstrek, or Ascent model. Subaru’s top boss Tomomi Nakamura says U.S. buyers aren’t ready for an all-EV lineup. At least not yet. A story in the Wall Street Journal says Subaru is only selling around 300 of its all-new 2020 Crosstrek Hybrid models per month, and a story from Automotive News Europe quotes Nakamura saying, “The only EVs that are selling well are from Tesla,” he said at a technology briefing earlier this week.

Subaru doesn’t want you to know they are controlling the sale of its first-ever plug-in. The top Subaru boss fails to tell you they only make the 2020 Crosstrek plug-in hybrid available in limited quantities and only in a few states. It’s hard to sell a new model if customers can’t even find one.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek Plug-In HybridSubaru is limiting quantities of the Crosstrek Plug-In Hybrid

It’s all about playing it safe

Subaru doesn’t want to take the risk of bringing an all-electric Outback, Forester, Crosstrek or Ascent model to customers yet. In the briefing to journalists this week, Subaru tried to impress them by spelling out its plan to make at least 40 percent of its global sales electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles but says you will have to wait another decade (by 2030) to get one.

Subaru teased a futuristic EV all-wheel-drive model this week but said you can’t have it. Nakamura said at the briefing, Subaru, which is now 20 percent owned by Toyota, will collaborate with the largest Japanese automaker on new hybrid technology and introduce a vehicle with the technology sometime this decade. Subaru is also jointly developing an all-electric SUV with Toyota and plans to bring it to major markets including the U.S. but not for another five years.

New Subaru all-electric SUVSubaru says an all-electric SUV is coming by 2025

Subaru’s chief technology officer, Tetsuo Onuki says projections of EVs taking over the market in the next decade aren’t realistic. “To be honest, we don’t expect the market is going to turn into all-electric vehicles in 2030,” Mr. Onuki said. “They’re going to be quite expensive.”

What’s next for Subaru?

The second-generation Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 is coming next with a possible new turbocharged engine, and the sports coupe will possibly ride on Toyota’s TNGA architecture (Toyota New Generation Architecture). But it’s not going to get hybrid technology for another decade at least.

Subaru thinks taking the slow approach is best for its customers. For now, Subaru is sitting on the sidelines until all-electric vehicles become more widely accepted in the U.S. market. Subaru’s president Tomomi Nakamura seems content to wait and watch for at least another half-decade.

Watch why the 2020 Subaru Outback is hotter than the 2020 Forester and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube for daily automotive news coverage.

Subaru will instead focus on reducing its carbon footprint from its factories, offices and other facilities, while improving the safety and drivability of the top-selling 2020 Subaru Outback, Forester, Crosstrek and Ascent models. Subaru is taking a slow is safe approach when it comes to an EV lineup and points to slow sales of the 2020 Crosstrek Hybrid to prove you won’t buy them.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on FacebookTwitterInstagramSubaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!

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Photo credit: Subaru Corporation


Kent (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 10:50AM

I’m a big Subaru fan and rarely buy a different brand. However, my next car will be an EV. So if Subaru isn’t ready, they will lose customer.

James (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 12:22PM

In reply to by Kent (not verified)

I currently own a 2007 outback and a 2006 forester. Love the awd they offer, but they both have 200k on them so I am beginning to shop around. Unfortunately Subaru is not on my list to look at because they dont offer a BEV.

Glenn Hunt (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 4:49PM

In reply to by Kent (not verified)

Same. 2011 Outback. In 2 years I we be looking for a EV. I enquired at my dealer about Hybrids as Subaru had brochure on one at the time. They had one brochure and did not know anything about them.

Chris (not verified)    January 25, 2020 - 3:49PM

In reply to by Kent (not verified)

This is 100% my position too. It's been a long time since I've had anything but a Subaru, but they are misreading the market. I too will be going EV whether they can provide it or not. Another lost customer.

Will Coucheron-Aamot (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 12:34PM

If it means killing off the WRX or offering it without a manual transmission, they're right.

Js (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 1:40PM

Of course the market isn't ready. Nobody but Tesla is doing EVs well and nobody else really has one lined up anything soon.
Not to mention going EV means retooling factories and creating separate assembly lines for other components. That's a huge investment for when is still essentially a Gen1 technology that no one but a private company has this far proven viable.
Not to mention EV costs are still very high compared with hybrids and ICE technology.

It simply makes sense for them to wait.

Craig Z (not verified)    January 25, 2020 - 6:14AM

In reply to by Js (not verified)

Is Tesla even really creating new demand for EVs or is it effectively just cannibalizing existing hybrid demand as well as grabbing market share from less sexy EV manufacturers like Nissan?

In the U.S. I think that adoption of EVs won't really pickup until manufacturers start producing electric trucks and SUVs. Those are the two biggest growing segments of the market. Toyota has had great success with it's hybrid RAV4. When auto manufacturers start producing electric trucks and SUVs I think we'll start seeing a shift. Most consumers aren't looking for compact cars.

Jason (not verified)    January 26, 2020 - 12:27AM

In reply to by Js (not verified)

Tesla may have a great product but it’s yet to turn a profit. It’s a bit of financial zombie being propped up by artificially low interest rates and ramped speculation. How long can that be sustained?

Paul (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 1:48PM

You act like it's some big conspiracy, Subaru isn't Tesla. Subaru knows it's customers, it knows it's sales history of prior hybrid sales and where they sold, and is adjusting inventory accordingly. Outside of the echo chamber there are many people that just don't want or aren't interested in BEVs, electric has made great strides but I think it will take another 10 or so years before it equals gas sales.

Crig (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 8:09PM

In reply to by Paul (not verified)

Subaru doesn't know it's customers any longer - we've had at least 6 in the extended family and will not buy another one - due to lower MPG, the head gasket mess, and the oversized newer models. Now we have a VW Sportwagen, and Avalon Hybrid...son has a Soul, etc.
Subaru is toast as far as I can see....a little niche until and unless they come up with some better vehicles.

Egan Fo (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 8:56PM

In reply to by Crig (not verified)

Exactly my feelings. I’ve owned four Subarus, but I’m done waiting for a viable hybrid or EV. I got a Hyundai Ioniq last fall when my Outback lease expired. I still love Subaru, but they’re way behind the others in the non-ICE market.

Alan Sach (not verified)    January 25, 2020 - 1:01PM

In reply to by Crig (not verified)

Subaru is more than a little "niche" where I live (Northern Rockies). Every third car you see is a Subaru. For the price it has no competition. It is the only real AWD family/passenger vehicle out there (as opposed to slip and grip). Otherwise you have to go into a truckish 4WD or far more expensive Audi Quattro. Have they had their problems? Yes. But there are still a ton of them on the road with over 200,000 miles.

Fraginator (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 2:21PM

I have bought 4 new Subarus in the last 5 years and will be purchasing another in 2 years. I have less than zero interest in an EV and would not be remotely interested in one built by Subaru. A truck would be on my list though... (A real one, not another Baja-like pretender)

Chris Porosky (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 2:22PM

Subaru's comment are completely uninspiring. The other reason the Crosstrek hybrid doesn't sell we'll is because of its inefficiency compared to gas model. So it's about making an ev that people will want to drive and is competitive, more than any market bias against ev in general.

Tim (not verified)    January 29, 2020 - 2:37PM

In reply to by Francis Dupuis (not verified)

Except neither of those, in fact very few high mpg vehicles, offer the AWD, excellent ground clearance, safety features and ruggedness that are necessary for our lifestyle and living on a mountainside in Oregon. :)

Dan (not verified)    February 3, 2020 - 1:23PM

In reply to by Tim (not verified)

I'm averaging over 100mpg in my Crosstrek PHEV. My daily commute is 17 miles total, so I'm in pure EV each day. Even when I need gas, it's still efficient. Just don't drive like you're in a race and you'll do just fine. This car has been great in the Winter so far and the AWD is excellent. This is my third Subaru and this is a great product. Spend a few more engineering dollars to drop the battery into where the spare tire well is and you're back to the same cargo space as the ICE model.

Mike M (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 2:26PM

Maybe I will consider a Subaru for my next car. I do not want an EV, I want nothing to do with electric vehicles.

Doc B (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 2:47PM

I'm not at all surprised. Consider the fact that a huge amount of the Subaru market are "outdoorsy" folks who do not always have access to a charging station when driving remote areas for their activities. Extra fuel cans can be packed and are relatively weight reasonable. How would one pack extra electricity without massively heavy battery units?
I doubt sales will do very outside of urban /suburban areas...

Timothy Parker (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 3:15PM

I took a look at the Crosstrek PHEV. I don't think it would ever be a good seller. The Crosstrek feels like a lifted sedan, which is what it is. The battery lifts the cargo area reducing already limited space. EV range is poor and hybrid mileage isn't special. Subaru shoehorned a hybrid engine and a battery pack into an existing model with predictable and disappointing results. So, Subaru is right in limiting distribution simply because there would be very little demand for this vehicle, and they are likely losing money on each one. It does give them some initial experience in producing an electrified car, but that's about it. I do look forward to a better thought out effort.

jg (not verified)    January 25, 2020 - 4:53PM

In reply to by Timothy Parker (not verified)

The “initial experience” was the 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid, which I had for a couple years (leased). It drove much better than the “regular” Crosstrek (I had a 2014 XV before the hybrid) and was a nice car, but I traded it in on a Forester XT because the Forester got better mileage.

John Goreham    January 24, 2020 - 3:32PM

It seems to me EVs and Subarus are a match made in heaven. No more head gasket leaks. No more oil consumption failures. No more CVT failures. 3 Ongoing Subaru problems solved with one fell swoop.

JB (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 4:11PM

I'd like to just point out here that due to the underwhelming sales of the Crosstrek Hybrid at launch, the company would've had no choice but to reel back production to cut any potential losses. I worked for a dealer when the first gen launched back in 13 or 14 I think it was, and we couldn't get them off our lots.

Keith (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 4:14PM

It's because Americans dont want that electric junk,the cost of disposing bad batterys,cost of new battery ,charging all the time,charge stations ,no thanks gas or diesel any day

Frances Webster (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 10:09PM

In reply to by Keith (not verified)

I totally agree. I'm on my 3rd Subaru Outback and am not interested in an EV. I feel they are more harmful for the environment in the long run.
I live in California and remember when they forced us to go from paper grocery bags to plastic bags. We were very reluctant ut had no choice. Now they're all over how awful plastic bags are.