Subaru Show Car Just That, For Now

The Japanese automaker uses a souped-up concept car as a nice visual to tout plans to open an STI unit in the U.S.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

April 2, 2015

2 Min Read
Spoiler stands out on modified BRZ
Spoiler stands out on modified BRZ.

NEW YORK – A modified Subaru BRZ concept sports car with a spoiler that looks like an airplane wing dramatically takes the stage at the New York International Auto Show.

It gets a lot of oohs and aahs, especially from the need-for-speed set in the audience. But it’s mainly here for the Japanese automaker to promote plans to open a U.S. unit of its STI performance-brand business.

Subaru executives say little about the prospects of the jazzed-up BRZ ending up in dealership showrooms as a production car.

Still, the striking vehicle with a beefed-up suspension and racing engine makes a nice visual for news that Subaru Tecnica International is coming to America.

STI began as a Japanese company in 1988. Opening a U.S. office stands to  strengthen the STI brand and increase parts and accessory sales to driving enthusiasts, Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America, tells WardsAuto.

Currently, the automaker’s performance-parts sales are relatively low volume.    

“It gets its own focus,” he says of the impending STI office in the U.S. “If it is part of a parts department, it might not get the focus in terms of marketing or development that it would as its own business.

“If it stays in the parts department or our accessory group it will never develop the way we want it to.”

The new office will open within a year, probably in Cherry Hill, NJ, where Subaru’s U.S. sales operation is located.

Could the STI badge finds its way on more Subarus other than the only one that currently wears it, an STI version of the WRX?

“Right now, our plan is performance-parts oriented,” Doll says. “We’ll see how those are accepted in the market.”

If that works out well, completed STI cars would start showing up.

As for that souped-up BRZ on stage behind him at the auto show, he says, “I don’t want you to think it’s coming next year. It’s not. It could, but we have to do some other engineering and testing.”

Subaru spokesman Mike McHale is more emphatic: “There are no plans to put this out. There is no time scale. This is not a production car.”

Subaru’s current 7-vehicle lineup ranges from sports cars such as the BRZ to cross/utility vehicles such as the compact Forrester.

“We’re sticking to our knitting, doing the portfolio we have now,” Doll says. “If there is a hole in the lineup, it is us not having a 7-passenger (CUV)."

Subaru has been on a roll of late. A few years ago it sold about 100,000 units a year in the U.S. Last year, it sold 513,693, a 20% increase. More than half of its global sales are in the U.S.

“Really, we could sell more but we’re constrained by production,” Doll says.

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