The Subaru Tribeca must have left a bad taste in the mouths of executives at Subaru Australia, because CarAdvice has learnt the company may not offer the replacement for the large SUV that is believed to be under development ahead of a potential appearance in 2016.
Subaru Australia managing director, Nick Senior, told CarAdvice at the launch of the 2015 Subaru Outback and 2015 Subaru Liberty that he’s happy with the way the business is currently running – with fewer key models – than he was when there were extra cars that required more selling.
“It’s an interesting one,” Senior said. “I think we’re in a better shape now without some of the models that we’ve had over the last couple of years.
“Not because of the models per se, but because of the resource and focus you need to be able to successfully sell seven, eight, nine models instead of being able to focus on four to six models,” he said.
Senior suggested that simplification has helped clear things up for the company, its staff and its customers.
“I think, arguably, now that Tribeca is gone, Exiga is gone, we can concentrate us, the network and our resources on selling [the cars we have in the range],” he said before suggesting that the company’s sales figures back up the notion.
“If you go through VFACTS, it’s very hard to find examples of where brands are successfully marketing more than four or five cars. There are exceptions – Mercedes-Benz, but in fairly small numbers – but there’s not a mainstream brand, not even Mazda, with all the success that company is having, it’s coming on the back of 3 and CX-5,” he said.
Senior suggested that a fuller model range won’t necessarily translate to more sales.
“It’s a tough job – the stocking, the ordering, the resources,” he said, before giving an insight into what he could be thinking for the next-generation large SUV that will essentially fill the void left by Tribeca and made even more fillable by the heavily reduced prices now being listed for the Outback.
What will power that new-generation SUV is still to be confirmed - though there are reports of a plug-in hybrid diesel drivetrain for the new model. Yoichi Hori, deputy general manager of Subaru’s engineering department, suggested to CarAdvice that there would likely be more powerful diesel and petrol engines in the works.
According to Hori, the company’s research has suggested that a six-cylinder engine won’t be a viable part of its model mix in the longer term, and the most likely candidate is a downsized turbocharged engine.
“The six-cylinder model is decreasing in the world, so that’s why probably the future, many companies take the smaller displacement with a turbocharger, or diesel, or hybrid,” he said.
“Maybe smaller displacement,” he said when asked if there could be a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine. “That’s going to be more suitable for the market.”
While Senior didn’t comprehensively rule out the SUV – which likely wouldn’t reach Australia until late 2016 or even 2017 were it to get the green light locally – it appears it could fall by the wayside.
“If there’s a model coming I don’t put my hand up all the time, because it’s just not always the best solution,” he said.
“Having said that, if things do come up, we’re certainly going to have a look at them.”
One such car the brand is currently looking into is the Subaru Levorg, and Impreza-based wagon that offers a performance bent and can be specified as though it were a WRX wagon.
A decision on that car is due in the first quarter of 2015.