The Forester is Subaru's most sport-utility-vehicle-looking product to date. It's built on a car chassis but comes with Subaru's trademark all-wheel drive. The Japanese import carries U.S. government certification as a car, requiring more stringent emission and safety checks than trucks.
PAUL HOGAN IS BACK
Actor Paul Hogan, who has pitched Subaru vehicles in spots for the past two model years, is returning in Forester's national network and cable TV campaign. But he takes a back seat to the same, unnamed woman who has been his passenger in chase scenes in previous ads. She's the driver in both new spots from Temerlin McClain, Dallas.
In one, she speeds off in the Forester, leaving Mr. Hogan in a cloud of dust. He delivers the tagline, "Subaru Forester. Sport-utility tough. Car easy." In the other commercial, she's enjoying driving the Forester so much, she forgets to pick up Mr. Hogan, who is being chased by villains.
Two print ads play off the spots; the campaign, running through yearend, also includes outdoor.
Forester's primary target is women, which is why Subaru decided to emphasize Mr. Hogan's female sidekick, said Tim Mahoney, Subaru director of marketing. The car importer is aiming at young families with children under 10.
Toward that end, Subaru's media buy is slightly different from previous years, Mr. Mahoney said. Subaru has added Martha Stewart Living, Cooking Light and Child to the mix.
Also new for Subaru is an advertorial program tied to Forester with Cooking Light and four other magazines. Among them is Time, whose version of the advertorial will discuss women pioneers in various fields.
Forester will sell for between $18,695 and $23,295. Subaru expects to sell up to 3,000 of the vehicles monthly.
The sport-utility market has become crowded, forcing first-time incentives on some more popular models, including Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer.
Subaru has successfully carved out a niche by offering only all-wheel-drive vehicles and creating niche hybrid products, such as its Outback sport-utility wagon, said John Bulcroft, president of auto consultant Advisory Group.
Forester will compete against the two other hybrid sport-utilities, Toyota Motor Sales USA's RAV4 and American Honda Motor Co.'s CR-V, said auto consultant Christopher Cedergren, managing director of Nextrend.
The hybrid segment is a niche now, attracting buyers who like the utility of SUVs but prefer a car's drivability and lower-to-the-ground level, Mr. Cedergren said.
But the niche will grow and become more of a mainstream vehicle segment, he predicted, though Detroit's Big 3 won't enter the field until the turn of the century.