As one of its functions, the Subaru public relations department helps the media present an accurate story about Subaru vehicles. The department’s work on the 2005 Legacy and Outback began more than a year before their introductions.
Public relations disseminated information to the media through press events called “long leads” (for magazines) and “short leads” (for newspapers).
For the long lead, Subaru invited two groups of 20 journalists. Subaru presented information sessions, and the journalists drove the Legacy GT on courses set up on a race track and the Outback on mountain. (See “Road Trips.”)
Auto shows require coordinated displays, brochures, media kits and vehicles – each of which is a major project in itself. Concepts and designs for the next year’s exhibits begin immediately after the current one concludes.
For 2004, the U.S. auto shows held in Detroit, Chicago and New York City were singled out for Legacy and Outback introductions.
DISPLAYS: Each show expresses a theme or feeling to help showgoers better understand the brand.
BROCHURES: Distinct brochures were made available for each show, requiring photography, illustration, design, copywriting, layout and printing.
MEDIA KITS: Information for
the press and broadcast journalists was developed in a similar process, including
photography suitable for publications and accurate fact sheets.
The advertising agency for Subaru of America started television ad spots in the fall of 2003. The agency presented concepts to Subaru management in November and December, and scripts were approved.
Concepts for magazine and newspaper print advertising were coordinated with the TV ads.
Filming and photography followed, with casts, crew, vehicles and other props similar to those used by a movie production studio. The film was edited and prepared to air during times scheduled with television networks and stations on national, regional and local levels.
The agency also prepared “running footage” – shots of the vehicles being driven in different locations, from various angles and points of view – for use by local dealers or dealer associations.
Another print initiative was a 1.6-million-piece mail campaign encouraging recipients to visit local Subaru dealers.
Subaru initiated a microsite exclusively for the new Legacy and Outback. Coordinated with auto show introductions, the www.need-desire.com site revealed information in stages. It presented standard and optional features, specifications, images, vehicle colors and computer downloads. Site visitors could request brochures and sign up for vehicle updates.
Microsite planning started in August 2003, with construction begun in October. It went live in January of 2004.
Links at www.subaru.com and My.subaru.com led to www.need-desire.com, which was scheduled to move to www.subaru.com in early summer 2004.
Late last year, Subaru management asked the Drive staff to dedicate the summer 2004 issue to the new vehicles. Subaru wanted to ensure that current owners were aware of the vehicles and of the complexities behind bringing them to market. Subaru also wanted readers to be aware of the vehicles’ significant changes.
The Drive staff researched the new vehicles, monitoring the European introductions in Frankfurt, Germany (September 2003) and Asian introductions in Tokyo, Japan (late October 2003). Information was gathered from the U.S. auto shows (January and February 2004) and through a series of interviews at Subaru corporate headquarters in Cherry Hill, New Jersey (March 2004).
The Drive team also toured Subaru of Indiana Automotive manufacturing facilities in Lafayette, Indiana (March 2004) and attended presentations about the vehicles at the Mid-America Region offices in Itasca, Illinois (April 2004).
Meanwhile, reference material, photography and other images were gathered from Subaru global headquarters in Japan and from various departments within the company. Drive contributor John Rettie was contracted to write driving impressions and supply photography of the new vehicles from the long-lead event.
The new Legacy and Outback were presented to the dealers at their annual business meeting in May 2004, positioning the vehicles in the Subaru lineup and in the market. Dealers drove the vehicles in a ride-and-drive event, experiencing performance and handling capabilities as well as improved quality.
Preparation for the dealer meeting usually starts a year in advance.
Kits from Subaru helped dealers prepare and host premier parties centered around a traditional dealership unveiling of the new models. The kits included suggestions for staging, invitations, follow-up materials and cloth car covers.
Five to six months prior to vehicle availability, technician trainers determined which new tools dealer service technicians would need. When properly selected, these vehicle-specific tools can improve the quality of maintenance and repairs.
A year prior to the vehicles arriving at the dealerships, technical trainers from Subaru of America met in Japan with trainers from around the world to learn about the Legacy and Outback. Trainers studied the vehicles and drove them, then talked with the engineers who designed them. The trainers took apart and studied vehicle components.
Technical trainers developed illustrated training materials, including guided worksheets that introduced the vehicles, pointed out specific items to check in a predelivery inspection, guided through maintenance procedures and explained diagnostics.
Training sessions for service trainers began about six weeks before vehicle delivery, and technician training started within a couple of weeks of delivery. Approximately 2,000 technicians received four-day training in the program’s first quarter, and another thousand in the second quarter.
Along with the service department, the parts department prepares for the arrival of a new vehicle by anticipating needs. Parts for maintenance and repair were ordered in January and shipped to the dealers in April to ensure adequate support for the new vehicles.
Other parts-related supplies were sent to dealers between March and June. These included parts CD-ROMs, numbering and pricing information, and brochures.
See the article “Sales and After-Sales Support.”
More testing was done in preparation for producing the new Legacy and Outback than for any previous Subaru model. Starting in December 2003, preproduction vehicles were driven both in test-track environments and on the road in different regions of the country. Feedback from the tests was incorporated with information gathered in Europe and Japan, where Legacy and Outback already were sold. Vehicle accessories were also tested.
Every six to eight weeks, Quality Improvement Meetings were held at Subaru of Indiana Automotive in Lafayette. These meetings helped to track issues and make changes to further refine product quality.
The new vehicles were also sent to federal agencies for required testing. These included Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests for fuel economy ratings and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests for crashworthiness.
Owner documents: Every vehicle has an Owner’s Manual, Warranty and Maintenance Booklet, Owner Reference Guide and other documentation. Their development began almost a year prior to the vehicle launch. Photography of the control panels for major systems was required for the Owner Reference Guide. That photography had to wait for the second group of preproduction vehicles, in which the final version of the instrument panel was installed.
The Warranty and Maintenance Booklet was finished 60 days prior to the vehicle release and submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to these publications, Subaru had to gather together and package the dealer directory, tire guide and other publications for owner reference.
SERVICE DOCUMENTS: Service manuals for the new vehicles were prepared with more than 5,000 pages and hundreds of illustrations. Other Subaru engineering books, service reports and updates required preparation as well. These were also made available for STIS.
Accessories requiring installation after production include Auto-Dimming Mirror/Compasses, security systems, spoilers and trailer hitches. Planning for these items began more than four years ago, starting with vehicle concept and positioning. Regular communication with vehicle engineers helped to ensure product quality. Most accessories required 12 to 18 months for design, prototypes, testing, tooling and production, with production coordinated with vehicle launch.
Planning accessories for the 2005 Legacy and Outback began
more than four years ago.
As the new Legacy and Outback manufacturing line ramped up, production units were stored at the Subaru Lafayette 25,000-unit-capacity lot. Plastic coverings over the paint helped to protect finish. Members of the launch team disconnected batteries and monitored other components such as tire pressure to ensure delivery in top-notch condition.
Road Trips: Driving the 2005 Legacy and Outback