Fall 2002 Forward to a Friend


The celebration of our 35th anniversary continues with this final installment in a three-part series* on the history of Subaru of America. With the company’s position in the market clearly defined by the mid-1990s, we introduced vehicles providing the sportiness, utility and comfort desired by on-the-go Americans through the last decade. The innovative Subaru lineup was led by Outback®, Forester® and Baja® models.

America had reached new heights of prosperity, leaping into the new Millennium with energy to spare. Seemingly overnight, “dot-com” entered the vernacular, and high-tech became high-stakes. The century’s biggest party celebrated midnight December 31, 1999, around the world ... and the dreaded Y2K bug was a no-show.

The calendar moved into the unknown 2000s, and “X” marked the spot for exceptional fun as extreme sports took good times over the top. Lance Armstrong made “Le Tour” his own walk in the park, and a Tiger stalked golf courses from Georgia to Scotland. Outdoor fun was pushed to the limits. Trekking trails and climbing rocks, paddling fast and skiing faster. Subaru had just the car for this new era, the Outback – The World’s First Sport Utility Wagon™ introduced in 1996.

At the same time, Aussie actor Paul Hogan introduced American drivers to the Outback with a series of chase-scene commercials, and the swashbuckling image had Subaru riding a wave of success through the end of the decade and beyond. The Outback answered consumers’ calls for a “sport-ute” that could ride comfortably, too. While the industry averaged a 20-percent decrease in sales, Subaru sales shot up more than 20 percent.

As the ’90s drew to a close, it seemed as though everything was speeding up. News traveled faster. Cell phones took business on the go. Even professional sports saw dramatic changes. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa obliterated Roger Maris’ record by sending home runs out of ballparks faster and farther than ever before.

When speed of delivery mattered, Subaru kept pace – or set the pace – with the Forester. The Forester set the 24-hour world speed record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Debuting on auto show floors in 1997, the Forester was an immediate hit with drivers and critics alike. In 1997, the Automobile Association of America named the Forester “best SUV priced less than $25,000.” It’s a rugged and versatile performer that just gets better with age. American drivers wanted adventure from their cars, and Subaru was thriving in the growing SUV market.

The end of the ’90s – the ride into a new century – was filled with twists, turns and possible detours up ahead. What was old became new again, with another Bush entering the Oval Office when George W. Bush was elected president by the slimmest of margins. And as if the new millennium kindled the sci-fi and fantasy fan hidden in us all, shape-shifting movies like the “Star Wars” prequels, “Matrix” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy were box-office smashes.

What began as a worldwide celebration of the year 2000 became a test of human spirit as New York’s firefighters and police officers showed us all what true courage is made of. “Reality” TV has become the norm, showing viewers the best – and especially the worst – of people when cameras roll without scripts. The “bubble” burst, turning dot-coms into dot-“bombs,” gas prices have climbed, and financial belts have tightened. Above all, “economy” is the buzzword for politics and our way of living. Subaru understands the tough choices drivers have to make, and it’s made sure to add fun and versatility to prudent car purchases.

The Subaru Outback offers better fuel economy than any leading midsize SUV, while some models feature the OnStar® Communications System, with GPS and voice- and data-exchange capabilities. And, in 2002, Subaru put the splashy, new Baja on the road ... and off-road. All-Wheel Drive means all thrills are possible with the World’s First Multiple Choice Vehicle™. Looking as though it jumped off the pages of a car designer’s fantasy sketchpad, the Baja blends the ride, handling and amenities of a sports sedan with the ruggedness of a truck, and its revolutionary Switchback® system allows for even larger cargo loads. The Boston Globe seems convinced: “Subaru may be onto something with the Baja ... And the wonder is, it drives like a car – not like a truck or an SUV.”

Thrills take another turn with the most recent offering from Subaru of America – WRX STi. Big brother to the WRX, it’s a limited-production, road-going version of the contender that Subaru fields in the World Rally Championship.

It’s been a wild ride for us all these past 35 years. Times will continue to change, and so will Subaru. What’s next for Subaru? Stay tuned to tomorrow ... Subaru designers are working on it.

(Above) A fireman carries an American flag to the highest point he can find at the site of the World Trade Center towers, September 12, 2001.

(Right) An election observer reviews a ballot during a recount in Jacksonville, Florida, 2001.
Lance Armstrong during the 14th stage of the Tour de France, 2002.

* This article is the third in a series of three. Read the first part of Subaru History in the Spring 2003 issue and the second part in the Summer 2003 issue.