Subaru to fuel Impreza with performance pitch

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Subaru of America will shift the focus to performance when it launches the redesigned 2002 Impreza line.

The carmaker is best known for starting the hybrid-vehicle trend in 1995 by positioning its all-wheel-drive Outback as "the world's first sport-utility wagon." For Impreza, Subaru VP-Marketing Bill Cyphers described the shift from solely all-wheel-drive to performance as evolutionary, not revolutionary, and said the performance message is credible.

Joining the Impreza line in the U.S. is the souped-up, turbo WRX version, which has sold well overseas for several years. Subaru has a team that drives the car in the World Rally Championship series.

The marketer expects the new model to attract younger buyers. Current Subaru buyers "are pushing 50," Mr. Cyphers said. The 2002 Impreza is targeted at 35-year-olds.

Subaru expects to spend about 20% of its 2001 ad budget on the new Impreza models. The company spent $89 million on media advertising last year and $49 million in the first half of 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting.


The Impreza's launch campaign, from Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas, won't feature longtime pitchman Paul Hogan. The Australian actor will appear in two new TV spots due to be shot next month for the Outback and Forester sport-utility vehicles.

Subaru expects to sell some 26,000 Imprezas in the U.S. next year, including 10,000 WRX models. Mr. Cyphers predicted Subaru will sell 171,000 vehicles overall this year and said the company set a sales goal of 235,000 units by 2005.

Subaru traveled on rough roads in the 1980s by adding too many models. With losses piling up, the automaker ditched most of its product line in the early 1990s and returned to its all-wheel-drive roots.

Jim Hossak, VP at AutoPacific, said Subaru isn't straying very far with its upcoming product offerings. "They're still trying to stay focused, and they're not bringing out a wide variety of vehicles," he said.

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