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In a Tokyo press conference today, Subaru outlined its long-term plans for technology development and reducing carbon emissions. The company will continue to “evolve” core technologies, like its Boxer internal-combustion engines. Reuters also reports that Subaru is strengthening ties with Toyota on developing new technologies. That could result in a new co-developed all-electric SUV – but not until 2025.
At the announcement, Subaru unveiled the first design study (shown above) for the full-electric crossover to be developed with Toyota. The EV mockup was described as low-slung with an elongated cabin and a raked rear window. It has giant blacked-out wheel wells.
Subaru’s President Tomomi Nakamura expressed skepticism about sales of fuel-efficient vehicles in the United States. He pointed to lackluster sales of the Subaru Crosstrek plug-in hybrid.
“The U.S. market is really tough. I think that the market for electrified vehicles will take some more time to form in the US. Only Tesla’s EVs are selling well. We need to watch carefully how the market trend will change, going forward. But I think a trend toward electrified vehicles will emerge, without doubt, so we would like to make preparations for that.”
Nakamura said that 40 percent of its global sales will be EV or hybrids by 2030.
“To supplement the mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars already in its lineup, Subaru plans to develop a so-called “strong hybrid” vehicle using Toyota technology and intended to debut later in the decade.
Subaru introduced its Stella EV in Japan in 2009. Nearly a decade later, Subaru unveiled the Crosstrek plug-in hybrid, which offers 17 miles all-electric range. US sales of the plug-in Subaru in 2019 were about 1,000 units.
There were reports in 2016 that Subaru was developing an all-electric crossover. That project did not move forward.
While some headlines today indicate that “Subaru will only sell EVs by the mid-2030s,” news agencies appear to have conflated pure battery-electric vehicles with gas-powered hybrid-electric cars. Subaru’s official statement reads, “By the first half of the 2030s, [we will] apply electrification technologies to all Subaru vehicles sold worldwide.” A footnote on that statement explains that “electrification” applies to both hybrids and EVs.
Today’s statements reveal an EV-skeptical mindset shared by an alliance of automakers that includes Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, and Suzuki. Testuo Onuki, Subaru’s Chief Technology Officer, said its new global platform will accommodate gasoline-only and hybrid layouts.
The cost-saving tie-up with Toyota was also to jointly develop a BEV model, which will employ Subaru’s AWD technologies and Toyota’s vehicle electrification technologies. That was the first report of two automakers planning to develop an electric sport-utility vehicle, which won’t come for about five years.
In September, Toyota raised its stake in Subaru from 20% from 17%.
The purpose of today’s event was to outline Subaru’s technology roadmap and to speak to its environmental commitment. With Subaru relying on Toyota to help it develop new powertrain technologies, the two companies – plus Mazda and Suzuki – will align on a drawn-out timeline EV development.
Those electric-vehicle plans are painfully tentative and slow, especially as far as Subaru vehicles are concerned. The Toyota-Subaru alliance will more immediately focus on all-wheel-drive systems, hybrids, and the joint development of the rear-wheel-drive Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ sports car models.
Subaru’s president said, “Only Tesla’s EVs are selling well.” And he seems content to allow that to continue while remaining on the sidelines for at least another half-decade.
The wait for a lineup of pure EVs from Subaru could be a couple of decades away. The company said that by 2050, it will reduce average well-to-wheel CO2 emissions from new vehicles (in operation) sold worldwide by 90% “or more” in comparison to 2010 levels.