Even before he stepped into his current position as head of global design of Subaru, Mamoru Ishii was already working on revamping the design language of his firm’s cars. The next evolution of Subaru styling will soon ripple across the lineup.
“Customers have stopped rejecting us because of design, but we’re not getting customers to buy because of design,” Ishii-san told Automotive News in a recent interview. Subaru sales have broken their own records eight years in a row in the US, but total sales are still under a million, a fraction of the numbers Toyota or Nissan puts up. Ishii believes that strong design is the next step to attracting new buyers.
It is of course crucial for a man in his position to have good automotive taste, and apparently he does. In the story, it is revealed that the cars in his stable include a black Subaru R2 kei car, a black Outback, and a 1966 Sports 800, silver with red interior. With a boxer engine and rear-wheel-drive, it bears some similarity to other Fuji Heavies and was cited as inspiration for the BRZ. His first car was a second-generation Nissan Silvia and his hobbies include horseback riding.
Subaru came to the US with ignoble beginnings, its sole model, the 360 kei car, blatantly advertised as “Cheap and Ugly.” Since then, from the BRAT to the Baja, their designs have been most often described as “quirky” or “practical.”
While there have been flashes of brilliance — as with the fourth-generation Legacy — Subaru has mostly relied on technologies such as all-wheel-drive and rally-car performance to sell their cars.
We had very unbalanced models,” Ishii said in the interview. “The old Subaristas were compromising design for functionality.”
Ishii’s calls his new design language Dynamic X Solid. Key features will include a stance and surfacing described in the story as more rugged and sporty. Windshields will be more acutely raked, while fenders appear more chiseled.
The bracket-shaped headlights, said to invoke the horizontally opposed pistons of Subaru’s boxer engines, will be the new corporate face. With the new 5-sided grille, Ishii says the visage can be scaled up or down while maintaining brand cohesion. The tumblehome — the way the pillars curve towards the roof when viewed from front or rear — will be more acute as well, so the car looks more planted.
The first production car to wear this new suit will be the fifth-gen Impreza debuting this fall. Ishii described Subaru’s design department as quite possibly the smallest in the industry, but with his leadership — and his Sports 800 for inspiration — he hopes to make Subaru’s sense of style as strong as its sales growth.