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Tribeca leads Subaru model blitz

Room for seven: A third row of seats will be available for the Tribeca.

Subaru hopes to revamp its entire line-up within three years, led by the Tribeca SUV

14 Sep 2006

AFTER a period of relative calm on the new-vehicle launch front, Subaru is committed to revamping its entire line-up over the next three years.

Following the 2007 model year Liberty and Outback released this month will be the Tribeca prestige 4WD, which is due to go on sale soon after its debut at next month’s Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

Two Tribeca model variants will be available: a five-seat version and a seven-seater that Subaru is calling a "five-plus-two" model.

According to Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior, pricing should start below $60,000.

"There is significant interest already in Tribeca and we are already holding 1500 test drive requests," he said. “We have not been able to offer a Subaru family with three or more teenage kids an option up until now but Tribeca will slot into that gap.

"Tribeca will not be a large-volume vehicle for us – perhaps 100 a month – but it will nevertheless be a very welcome addition."The monocoque chassis Tribeca will be powered by a 186kW/296Nm 3.0-litre flat six and standard five-speed Sportshift automatic, essentially a modified version of the same gearbox in the Outback. It will use a coil spring-strut suspension up front and an all-new double wishbone rear suspension.

The Tribeca is the first all-new Subaru since the 1997 Forester.

It will be aimed at the forthcoming Mazda CX-7 and Mitsubishi Outlander V6 as well as seven-seater offerings, among them the Ford Territory, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Prado and Kluger.

The crossover will arrive with a high level of standard equipment, with dual front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, leather upholstery and premium sound system.

The seven-seater will add vehicle dynamic control, heated front seats, six-speaker 100-watt stereo with MP3 capability, alarm, tyre-pressure monitoring, heated exterior mirrors and air filtration system.

The Tribeca also has a five-star crash test rating in the United States.

Apart from the Tribeca, an all-new Impreza small car is due towards the end of next year, borrowing design cues from the B5 concept car. However, the Impreza is not expected to incorporate the Tribeca’s controversial in-your-face front-end styling.

Following a partnership forged with Toyota Motor Corp and Subaru’s parent Fuji Heavy Industries, the new Impreza is tipped to get a new hybrid drive system based on the company’s 2.0-litre boxer engine. This is expected to be a version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system.

An all-new Forester arrives in the first half of 2008 and an all-new bigger Liberty/Outback range follows in early 2009, with an expected turbo-diesel engine – Subaru’s first diesel – which was primarily designed for the European market.

"Against this background I believe it is a very positive sign of the strength of the Subaru brand that we are on track for all-time record sales again this year," Mr Senior said.

He said rising petrol prices had helped invigorate the brand with many buyers moving out of big-six sedans and large 4WD wagons.

"We actually see the increase in petrol prices as an opportunity for Subaru as people and companies are downsizing," he said.

"In the past month or so there has been a dramatic swing in the sort of cars we are valuing at retail centres. Commodores, particularly SS and Calais versions, XR Falcons, Territories and LandCruisers are a common sight for valuers on a Subaru retail centre as these customers look at Libertys or Outbacks."Impreza and Forester was also benefiting from the change in buyer behaviour, he said.

"Both private and company/fleet buyers are increasingly looking at the whole-of-life cost, not just the upfront discount. This is reflected in a 15 per cent increase in our fleet and corporate and government sales so far this year."Conversely, buyers opting out of the larger six-cylinder SUVs seem to prefer Subaru sixes. Mr Senior said 25 per cent of all Liberty buyers this year and 29 per cent of Outback buyers had bought six-cylinder models.

Last year Subaru sold 36,044 vehicles in Australia and despite predictions of a slowing market for the remainder of this year Mr Senior is confident of selling around 38,000 vehicles this year.

"In a market which is now forecast to be 960,000 vehicles, according to Charlie Nelson this week, that would give us a market share of around 3.9 per cent, which is where we currently sit year to date," he said.

So far this year Subaru has sold 8614 Foresters and is on target to sell 12,000 plus for the year.

Impreza is also performing strongly, selling 7073 year to date while the small sedan and hatch are on track for an all-time sales record of more than 10,000.

Mr Senior believes Subaru’s reputation for retained value, reliability and durability have been contributors.

"Looking at Glass’s figures for the current period, Forester, Impreza, Liberty and Outback dominate their respective classes," he said.

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