Subaru To Unveil First Hybrid Model at 2013 N.Y. Auto Show | Edmunds

Subaru To Unveil First Hybrid Model at 2013 New York Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • Subaru confirmed for Edmunds that its first hybrid model will be unveiled at the 2013 New York Auto Show, but that it will not be based on the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester.
  • Subaru developed its own hybrid technology because it is fearful that using another automaker's technology might hurt the brand's image.
  • The automaker will consider offering a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle if the marketplace demands it.

TUCSON, Arizona — Subaru's first hybrid model will be positioned under the spotlight at the 2013 New York Auto Show, but it will not be based on the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester, the automaker told Edmunds.

But don't expect a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle to follow any time soon.

The reason? Subaru's size and limited resources prevent it from making huge investments in new technology, at least for now.

"We're a smaller manufacturer. We're unlikely to take the lead for things that involve a lot of new technology like electric vehicles or whatever," Kenneth Lin, director of product management for Subaru of America, told Edmunds.

During a drive event in Arizona for the new Forester, Lin said Subaru had developed its own hybrid technology. Subaru has not revealed which model will offer the technology or any details about its hybrid strategy, prompting speculation the company might adapt another automaker's technology.

"That would have been the easy way to do it," Lin said. "I think for Subaru and Fuji Heavy Industries the goal was to make sure our hybrid was a Subaru and had the attributes of a Subaru. People who are loyal owners expect that."

Subaru is owned by Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd.

Purchasing another automaker's technology is not unusual. For example, Nissan Motor Company marketed an Altima hybrid using Toyota technology. The Altima hybrid was offered from 2007 to 2011.

Since then Nissan has introduced the Infiniti M hybrid using technology it developed. Additionally, the company has announced that 15 vehicles using hybrid or plug-in hybrid technology will be sold globally by 2017.

Lin suggested that adapting another automaker's hybrid technology was a risky strategy, a strategy that potentially could harm a company's reputation, such as Subaru's.

"We felt that we needed to do it ourselves," he said. "That is why (development) has taken a little bit longer."

Lin said that because of Subaru's low production and sales volume, the automaker is one of the last companies to offer hybrid technology, and likely will be one of the last adapters of a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle strategy if it chooses to offer that technology.

"We can't really take the risk of placing our bets on a particular technology" until Subaru is confident U.S. fuel economy regulations will not change or until the marketplace accepts a particular technology, Lin said.

Subaru is a small player globally. The automaker sold 707,000 vehicles globally last year, of which 336,441 were in the United States. By comparison, Toyota Motor Company sold 9.5 million vehicles globally, with the United States accounting for 2.1 million.

Edmunds says: Subaru will avoid plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles for as long as it can.

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