Friday, June 24, 2016

Why there's no Levorg in the US

Every now and then someone see's a picture of the "new WRX hatchback" and goes crazy in the hopes that the Hatch has made it's triumphant return.  It ends up being either a photoshopped WRX STI or a picture of the US-soil-avoiding Subaru Levorg.  Most fans in America don't know much about this Impreza-based wagon with a turbo, so it's easy to assume that it's headed for a dealership near you.  However, the Levorg is not destined to reach our shores.

First, a few interesting things most people don't know about the Levorg... mostly because they probably didn't know it existed in the first place!  This car is actually longer than the current Hatchback offering for the 4th generation Impreza.  That means the Levorg is more of a traditional station wagon than a shorter hatchback like the WRXs offered before they switched to a sedan-only platform (the last year for a WRX hatchback was 2014).  Each Levorg comes standard with a Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission and have either a 1.6 liter or 2.0 liter flat-four turbocharged Subaru boxer engine.  Currently, the Levorg is only offered in Japan, Europe, and Australia. 

The main question most ask once they learn of the Levorg is why this car isn't offered in the United States, and there's a couple of reasons for that.  The first is in the cultural taboo of what this car is classified as: a Station Wagon.  For the same reason you go to the organic sustainable produce aisle at the grocery store, not the "Fresh Fruit" aisle, American consumers like the name "Crossover" more than the "Station Wagons" they loved before... but the Levorg would be hard pressed to be pitched as such.  The Outback and Forester have thrived in the Crossover segment of the US and both of these lines lead Subaru sales in the US.  However, the Forester reigns supreme thanks to it's boxier SUV-ish looks where the Outback can still give the appearance of a Station Wagon.  Subaru's very own Legacy wagon was discontinued after 2009 due to falling sales and an increase in interest with the Outback, further strengthening the idea that Americans like Crossovers instead of Station Wagons. 

As much as enthusiasts would swear that a wagon would do well here, Japanese brands in general have not seen much interest in this area.  The Camry, the Accord, and other Japanese sedans used to be offered with a wagon option but have since dropped those offerings over the years.  However, it seems the people buying wagons in the US are European-minded and tend to go for Audi, Volkswagen, and BMW instead.  Add in the fact that the Levorg fell short in the initial sales goals when it was launched in Japan and there's not much of a pull for Subaru to risk a blunder in their largest market.

This also technically hampers any hopes for a WRX Hatchback making a return anytime soon, as the Levorg fills that absence for those still looking for a sporty wagon in the other markets.  In fact, the US buyer has further written out the WRX Hatchback... or a Levorg even just by the sales numbers.  Subaru sold more 2015 WRX and WRX STI sedans than they sold 2014 WRX and WRX STI sedans and hatchbacks combined.  That sends Subaru a message that the hatchback isn't as important to our market, driving the nail in the coffin for those hopes even more. 

Add in the fact that the mere name of the car might not appeal to US buyers (LEgacy, reVOlution, touRinG is supposed to be how they named it) and the deck is stacked against it.  Would I buy one if they made it available?  Absolutely!  Would a handful of enthusiasts and loyal WRX Hatchback owners pick one up?  You bet!  But Subaru wouldn't bring it over just for those reasons alone.  I'd be tickled Cherry Blossom red if I were proven wrong, but the market isn't favorable in the US for the Levorg to succeed like it should. 

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmmm....... I still don't see why we cannot have it here in America! They have some serious fans here too..

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