Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Subaru Generational Changes

I work in Subaru sales and a common question I am asked is "When is the bodystyle changing?"  Knowing what I know about the cycle most Subaru bodystyles take, this can be a pretty easy question to answer... but all of that might be up in the air with the new "Global Platform" that Subaru will be going to in 2017 starting with the new Impreza. 

Confused already?  Here's a quick rundown of what Subaru currently does with their lineup.

Most Subaru models (Impreza, Legacy, Forester, etc) have a 5-year cycle for bodystyle changes.  This means that, after 5 years of a certain design, a new version or "generation" is released.  Each generation is marked by a complete redesign of the vehicle while still carrying the vehicle name on to the next year.  While the Crosstrek and Outback might fall into dispute with the numerical listings for generations (I've seen it argued out on forums plenty of times) it's mostly the same for everything else.  For example, the fourth generation Legacy was around from 2005 to 2009.  In the last two years of that generation, Subaru made a "facelift" and updated some options before it was phased out and replaced by the fifth generation Legacy in 2010.  That new Legacy went from 2010 to 2014 with a refresh in the last two years again.  The Forester's third generation design started in 2009 and went up to 2013 before it was replaced by the fourth generation for 2014 on up.  This cycle is relatively easy to follow and predict.  Based on the trend Subaru has been following, we can predict that the fourth generation Forester will remain mostly unchanged from 2014 until 2019. 

However, there are a few sporty oddballs in there that may start to blur the lines.  Neither the WRX or the BRZ have followed this trend.  It took Japan 3 extra years past the 2012 Impreza's fourth generation design to sort out the rally-bred sedan on the new chassis.  While the WRX and WRX STI continued to be sold in the US, they were still using the third generation Impreza platform through that time.  What was "new" on the Impreza in 2012 was supposedly "new again" with the 2015 WRX.  This overlap suggests that, production complications aside, the Crosstrek and WRX would live out their 5-year cycles respectively.  The Subaru BRZ, introduced in 2013, hasn't seen a traditional "refresh" until the 2017 model.  It's already off the 5-year cycle and no second generation has been announced as of yet. 

For the most part, we can use these generational changes as a sort of crystal ball to predict what features and designs will make their way on to Subarus in the future because they share so many parts.  For a long time, Subaru utilized two main platforms to build their vehicles.  The Impreza Platform brought us the Impreza WRX (later on just named the WRX), the Forester, and the Outback Sport (later the Crosstrek).  The Legacy platform also brought it's twisted sister: the Legacy Outback, which was later simplified to be called the Outback. 

Because many parts were shared between Legacy and Impreza platforms, many of their designs and features were interchangeable and carried over into the next model.  For instance, when the Impreza's 4th Generation Design was released, we saw the dashboard make it's way onto the 2013 XV Crosstrek, the 2014 Forester, and the 2015 WRX and WRX STI.  The Legacy and Outback seem to be redesigned during the same year each time, so the progression isn't stretched out over several years like the Impreza-based models. 

Here's where things change, though.  With the introduction of the Global Platform, there are two possibilities with future Subaru designs.  The first is that because they all share the same platform that we see even more parts interchanging between models.  Imprezas, Crosstreks, Foresters, WRXs, could start to share more components with the Legacy and Outback designs.  However, the second possibility is that while the platform would remain mostly similar, that the models might start to individualize themselves more.  Again, since the model for designs hasn't been changed in a long time, the Global Platform could shake things up and crack our precious crystal ball.
One thing is certain though: the 2017 Impreza is a glimpse of what could be for future models.  The closely-related Crosstrek and WRX will certainly get cues from the new Impreza as they are released later on down the line.  Dashboard design, body shape, general functions and features will make their way onto the new models as they are released.  And we can likely expect to see those changes following each line's current cycle.

With the new 2017 Impreza starting the 5th Generation off, the next to go on the Global Platform would theoretically be the Crosstrek in 2018.  After that, the 5th Generation Forester would come in 2019 to replace the current offering.  2020 would be the final switchover for the remaining Legacy, Outback, and WRX models.  2020 is also the year that Subaru's "Prominence 2020" plan would come to it's peak, making way for the next plan on how to continue to grow and improve as a company.  Expansion of the STI Brand and the introduction of a North American SUV are already on the horizon, but there's also future development with the joint partnership with Toyota on the BRZ and FT-86 as well as more electronic enhancements to vehicles, including full electric vehicles and further-enhanced driver assist technology.

Nearly all of the generational changes seen with Subaru since the introduction of the Legacy and Impreza models could get thrown out the window with the global platform, so the crystal ball for the last several years could be thrown out the window with the current generations of Subarus expiring and switching over to the Global Platform that they will soon all share.  After that, it's all up to whatever future Subaru has!

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