Summer 2004 Forward to a Friend

Today’s new Subaru projects are more carefully planned, beginning with the selection of a project team that conceives, designs and executes the vehicle. The team usually is led by an engineer who has demonstrated excellent organizational and project management skills.

Part of the team is the product planning group, which surveys competitive vehicles and immerses itself in the competitors of the vehicle to be developed. Planning also takes into consideration suggestions from owners and focus groups. Suggestions from around the world are pulled together so that the new model will improve on previous product offerings.

The story of the new Legacy and Outback begins with a commitment from Fuji Heavy Industries that the new vehicles were to be elevated from their predecessors. Subaru had a number of goals for the vehicles – to be best-in-class in the areas of design, performance, quality, feel and image. Premium and performance were the touchstones for this massive undertaking.

The new Legacy and Outback were developed following three basic principles:
1. TO PURSUE consistent and lasting principles
2. TO DEVELOP a vehicle that makes customers feel the conscience, meticulousness and philosophy of Subaru
3. TO ENHANCE the design level so that it offers the appeal of high performance with the feeling of advanced functionality and high quality, both inside and out

This corporate direction took into account the strengths of the vehicles. In the preceding generations of Legacy and Outback, Subaru developed the mechanicals. Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive – with its capable and proven engine, powertrain and chassis – served as the foundation. To bring it into balance, the new vehicle also needed visual balance. The goal, then, was to make the engine, drivetrain, chassis and styling all on par with each other.

Like most automakers, Subaru used clinics to help determine acceptance of its concept and design direction. Vehicles usually were involved, sometimes in a static display and sometimes driven by participants. At different times, these participants were dealers, customers, industry experts or other groups that could influence the acceptance of the vehicle in some way.

Clinics were not so much discussions of likes and dislikes as they were discussions concerning concepts and emotions. Interviewers determined the impact of emotions on what the participants preferred or how the participants viewed different aspects of a vehicle.

For example, a specific vehicle could be the subject of a clinic to determine the emotional appeal of its exterior styling. Reactions might range from bland to crisp or from aerodynamic to chunky. In these clinics, the team gathered the information, with careful attention paid to which groups of participants most closely resembled the anticipated customer for the vehicle. Accumulated emotional responses from clinics helped direct the project team during development.

In the end, the new Subaru vehicle’s concept emerged. It would balance charm, a sense of presence and a sense of wonder with performance. Appealing to the emotions and the senses, the 2005 Legacy and Outback also would provoke a reaction from anyone, anywhere in the world to consider it a “fun car.”

The capable and proven Subaru
powertrain served as the starting point for
the new Legacy and Outback.

Crossing the first milestone in the process of building this new Subaru was a complex task. Developing it into a showroom vehicle was a massive undertaking going even further, reaching into every part of Subaru.

Between concept and final production, Subaru has five milestones. At these points in the schedule, projects are evaluated and either given a go-ahead or stopped completely:
1. CONCEPT – analyze to determine what Subaru can build (concepts begin four-and-a-half to five years prior to production)
2. DESIGN – engineering concept
4. PROTOTYPE – no tooling done yet; test to see if the vehicle can go into production (about six months from handmade prototypes to early tooling that produces pre-production vehicles)
5. PRODUCTION – go or no-go

Product Development and Engineering:
Fusing Driving, Functionality and Beauty