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Subaru’s spectacular display at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November was like visiting a virtual U.S. national park, with some live trees, scents and sounds. The theme that prevails is that Subaru is ‘More than a Car Company’. Auto Futures has been talking to Subaru representatives.

Dominick Infante, Director of Communications of Subaru of America Inc. explains how Subaru has created a following of loyal customers who love pets, want to make a better world and enjoy the great outdoors.

And Diane Anton, Corporate Communications Manager, reveals the ways Subaru is ‘sharing the love’. 

What Makes Subaru, Subaru?

Subaru has its own unique brand in the U.S. When asked what makes Subaru, Subaru, Infante replies: “What we have discovered is [Subaru] people have more in common with each other than the products themselves. The products are a means to do people’s existing lifestyles. We looked at what our customers had in common and it was the outdoors. Other than Jeep, the second-highest number of owners that go off-road are Subaru owners.”

He explains that Subaru owners want to be outdoors. “Our customers bloom out of an active lifestyle.” 

“They are not going rock crawling. They are not Jeep people. They are using it as a way to enhance their lifestyle. They drive Subarus to get to the trails, carrying their bikes or going hiking or going camping. We are helping to get them to the adventure. That is what they have in common.”

Subaru also supports owners by having dog and pet options at events – because Subaru owners are really into pets, he says.

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EVs That Are Made to go Off-Road

“If you go back – we learned that instead of giving a discount, our owners would prefer to do something altruistic – to give. When we came up with ‘Share the Love’ – we said ‘We’re putting the power in your hands instead of giving you money off your car. You choose a charity and we will donate it in your name,’” says Infante.

That is how Subaru started ‘Share the Love’. It needed a pet charity and chose ASPCA. 

“We kept looking at our owners that led us outdoors. That’s how we wind up helping the National Parks Foundation,” he explains.

He says, in launching and making an electric vehicle, Subaru had to make sure that owners can take it to the parks and the campsites. It was important when Subaru came out with an electric vehicle, the Subaru Solterra, that it could drive off-road.

“What makes a Subaru a Subaru is its ability to let you do things – that’s our standard symmetrical all-wheel drive-which is why our new Solterra EV will only have all-wheel drive. All of our vehicles have all-wheel-drive except for the BRZ which is a race car. A lot of EV makers have achieved all-wheel drive by having dual motors. However, they are not designed for off-roading. For example, a Ford Mustang Mach-E has less ground clearance than a Mustang GT. There are other EVs that have all-wheel drive – they are not intended to go off-road. Our vehicles are intended to go off-road, including the Solterra,” says Infante.

The Solterra will be arriving in Southern California next summer and will be made in Japan. The Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana makes the Subaru Outback, Legacy, Ascent and the Impreza. Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. is a zero-landfill operation with a backyard wildlife habitat designated by the National Wildlife Federation.

Subaru Solterra Driving

“People tend to bond with their Subarus.”

The roots of safety for Subaru America come from its founder, Harvey Lamb. Lamb saw an all-wheel-drive Subaru model in Japan deployed by the forest service.

When Lamb went skiing in Vermont every year, he would see cars sliding in the snow. Lamb pre-purchased 5,000 all-wheel-drive Subarus. He sold every one of them in the 1970s, Infante tells us.

When people join the brand, they get into the brand and want to be Subaru ambassadors. Subaru ambassadors are not paid. Maybe they will get t-shirts and go to events and talk about Subaru. Subaru has thousands of people waiting to become Subaru ambassadors. It is a very unusual brand. The Subaru brand itself is almost as important as the actual product, says Infante.

“People tend to bond with their Subarus. They send us pictures of them doing things and going places, such as national parks. Subaru is a very unusual brand. People think we are making this up but it’s organic. It is cultural and organic. Subconsciously we’ve been doing this for 40 years and consciously doing it for 15 or 20 years.” 

Subaru supports gatherings and events all around the country such as Boxerfest in York, Pennsylvania and Subiefest California.

Subarus drive differently because of a boxer engine with a lower centre of gravity. It means the car turns in the corners better and feels more balanced and less tippy than other cars. That’s something subconscious. And then when Subaru owners drive another brand, they realise that they don’t like how it feels, says Infante.

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Giving Greenbacks Back

The colours of the cars also relate to the earth. For example, the Solterra’s colour blue is named “Sea Mist”. Subaru sells an inordinate number of green cars. Most car companies don’t sell cars that are painted green, Subaru sells a lot of green-coloured cars, says Infante.

Subaru currently has several initiatives that keep it in the hearts of its customers, donating to charities nationally and locally.

“We have over 600 retailers in the U.S. What we do at the national level they also do at the local level. Usually, you see big red bows on cars at holiday time. That’s not the way we do it. We do it through giving back. $250 per new vehicle is donated to charity with Share the Love that runs through January 3rd. Subaru buyers can pick one of the four national Subaru charities or a local hometown charity,” says Anton.

Subaru recently extended its relationship through contributions to the National Park Foundation.

“We are not just donating money at the parks. We have full-time Subaru employees that work directly with the national parks to help them with sustainability. Subaru was the first U.S. auto manufacturer to be zero-landfill. We’ve taken that knowledge and expertise and shared it with companies and organizations,” she explains.

For three years, Subaru has worked with Yosemite, Grand Teton and Denali National Parks. Subaru is helping them reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill through composting and recycling. Subaru developed and strategically placed over a thousand bear-proof recycling containers in the park.

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The graphics on the containers make it easy to know where to put the recycling. People love animals. They want to protect the animals when they can, says Anton.

Local Subaru retailers act as recycling centres. Visitors can recycle things that most other places will not, such as snack wrappers, coffee cups and coffee/creamer capsules, by partnering with TerraCycle to collect hard-to-recycle trash in Zero Waste Boxes.

Subaru, 2021 La Auto Show. Photograph By Matt Petit

In the Country or The Country Club?

Subaru has been steadily gaining buyers who can be found in national parks and on TV screens. Comedian Tina Fey bought a Subaru Outback because she drives in icy upstate New York and wanted something safe.

“All of our cars are very utilitarian and usable. They fit in everywhere you can drive through the neighbourhoods of New Canaan, Connecticut – you’ll just as likely see a Subaru Outback parked next to a Range Rover. We’ve kind of replaced Volvo in the area of an affordable safe vehicle. People think of us as a very safe car. Subarus are very safe to drive in bad conditions,” says Infante.

Every adventurous man, woman, child and dog can feel at home in a Subaru.

Infante notes, Subaru has an ‘everyman’ quality allowing drivers to go everywhere in a Subaru. So, you can drive a Subaru Wilderness to a country club dinner and not look out of place as well as take it out into the country.

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