Winter 2007 Forward to a Friend

The Changing Face of Drive


You are holding – and reading – the latest issue of Drive, the quarterly magazine from Subaru of America, Inc. (SOA) to its owners. Drive is a very special publication with a very special audience. And this issue marks the 20-year anniversary of the first publication of Drive.

According to Joe Barstys, Publisher of Drive since its inception, “Purchase of a vehicle is the beginning of a relationship between owner and manufacturer, and communication is at the heart of making the relationship work. That is the purpose of Drive magazine – to provide an ongoing means of communication between Subaru owners and SOA.”

Owners receive an automatic seven-year free subscription to Drive, starting immediately after purchase. That’s a total of 28 quarterly full-size, full-color copies of Drive magazine for each owner.


Did you know that more than 850,000 owners receive Drive every quarter? That number is larger than the per-issue circulation quantities of many well-known consumer publications, such as Road & Track and Automobile magazines in the automotive area, and Fortune, House Beautiful, and Inc. magazines in the general consumer area.

Subaru owners respond to Drive. What other free, corporate publication do you know where recipients write in to tell when and how to update their ownership information in order to keep their subscription current? Or to request replacement copies “to keep my set complete”? Or to provide input and commentary on articles? Or even to request a subscription to be sent to a non-owner as a holiday gift? (Sorry, Drive is only for Subaru owners.) Drive is much more than a one-way communication street ... and that’s the way SOA wants it.

Drive has, from the beginning, been recognized in the publishing industry as something special. In our very first year of publication, we were presented with an EPIC Award from the International Association of Business Communicators. Since then, Drive has earned numerous national American Graphic Design Awards. It has been a Finalist in the Direct Marketing Association’s ECHO contest. It also has achieved Gold, Silver, and Bronze EDDIE and OZZIE Awards for excellence in editorial and design at The Folio: Show, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Academy Awards®.

photo, paper and penREADER-DRIVEN CHANGE

In the 20 years since Drive started as a basic newsletter, the interaction with Subaru owners has led Drive to reflect the wide array of Subaru customer interests and lifestyles. We have grown and we have adapted the magazine and introduced correlating media to address them.

In recent years, Drive has jumped to the Web ( and has spawned a sister publication (Drive Performance) for automotive enthusiasts. Both these initiatives are examples of response to reader interests and SOA’s desire to be in better communication with owners.


High points along Drive’s 20-year journey serve as milestones. Each of these milestones reflects what we learned by listening to the voices of the owners.


The first Drive publication was a digest-size newsletter, issued in early 1987. It was part of an owner loyalty support program for SOA. It was pretty basic, had a page count that varied from issue to issue, and had a circulation of less than 40,000. It was a start toward meaningful owner communication, and a solid one. By 1989, the newsletter became a regular quarterly mailing.

Subsequent issues followed the plan presented in the first issue: “We plan to bring you news and information such as what’s new in Subaru product development. We’ll tell you how to maintain the enjoyment and value of your car with car care tips and money-saving opportunities from your dealers.”


In fall 1990, SOA surveyed thousands of Subaru owners and conducted focus group interviews to discuss Drive. That gave the editorial staff direction to make changes in design and editorial content. The changes took effect in 1991.

While still digest size, Drive now had a full-color cover, usually portraying a Subaru vehicle. It had the look and feel of a small magazine.

Drive magazine
With 24 pages, it was the content and design prototype for the Drive of today.

On one of the first pages in the Summer 1997 issue, Drive copy stated: “In celebration of the anniversary marking our tenth year in publication, we’ve given Drive a face-lift!”

It wasn’t just a face-lift. In that issue, Drive grew to its present magazine format. With 24 pages, it was the content and design prototype for the Drive of today. This was the result once again of listening to owners – owners who requested more lifestyle articles, more news, and less the look of a brochure.

In the almost 10 years since we adopted the full-size magazine format, we have expanded the page count of Drive to incorporate articles reflecting the growth in the Subaru model range, and the increasing number of owner-requested technical and lifestyle articles.

Also, selective print and binding technology allows the Drive staff to address issues of specific interest to individual segments of the Subaru owner base. For instance, if Impreza owners needed a reminder for something affecting their vehicle, they could receive an insert in their copies of Drive with that reminder. It was not necessary to send the reminder to everyone. This technology saves paper stock and enables Drive to maintain a high level of targeted interest.

SOA used “book within a book” technology to bind special inserts into Drive relating to new model introductions and other areas of interest to owners. And this capability allowed us to develop a version of Drive addressed exclusively to new owners, sent to only customers who just purchased their Subaru vehicles.

A recent Web analysis revealed that the Drive site had more than 640,000 hits in a month.

Keeping in touch with owners spread to the Internet in 2002, again in response to owner requests. Each issue of Drive is posted, along with articles exclusive to the Drive site. A recent Web analysis revealed that the Drive site had more than 640,000 hits in a month, with more than 44,000 visitors, and an average visit length of more than 10 minutes. These numbers indicate the extremely strong interest in Drive on the Web.

The Drive Web site has recently been redesigned for ease of use and improved appearance while maintaining the capability of accessing back issues.

Subaru confirmed its commitment to communicate with enthusiasts by creating Drive Performance magazine in 2004.

One of the recent directions taken by SOA has been to expand its lineup to include Subaru performance vehicles that the rest of the world has enjoyed and applauded for a number of years. Even prior to that expansion, U.S. Subaru performance fans following world rally efforts and taking part in the sport compact “scene” have clamored for more from Subaru.

Following research into the best means to address this highly interested group of enthusiasts, SOA introduced a ­performance magazine – called Drive Performance. Subaru performance car owners receive it automatically, and other Subaru owners as well as enthusiast owners of other makes are able to sign up for a free two-year subscription at

Drive Performance carries stories on all things Subaru having to do with performance: events like Hot Import Nights, the Subaru Motorsports teams, new product information, race and rally results, technical explanations, and how-to articles.


The magazine that you’re reading now belongs to today. It has been recently updated and “freshened” in design. We can promise you this: Drive will continue to evolve and will continue to speak to your interests, will inform you of Subaru news, and will carry important messages about Subaru and your vehicle. As we keep on listening to our readers, you will direct how Drive will change and how it remains the same.

So stay in touch. We’re listening.



1968 – Subaru of America, Inc. (SOA) founded

1983 – SOA celebrates 15 years of operation

1983 – The one millionth Subaru is sold in the United States

1984 – Subaru ranked second in customer satisfaction among all automotive makes by J.D. Power and Associates

1985 – Subaru unveils the XT Coupe and its innovative aerodynamic design

1986 – The Subaru Station Wagon is the number one imported station wagon (Source: R.L. Polk & Co.)

1987 Summer – First issue of Drive – newsletter digest size


1987 – Subaru Justy – the first modern mini-car from a Japanese importer – debuts; its Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) is the first one installed in a production car

1989 – Subaru-Isuzu Automotive Inc. (SIA) opens in Lafayette, Indiana; the first Legacy rolls off its assembly line

1989Drive published quarterly

1991 – Subaru unveils the SVX, its first performance luxury coupe

1991 – Mini-magazine format introduced


1993 – SOA decides to equip every Subaru with AWD; the Impreza debuts; AWD Legacy rates number one in owner satisfaction by a 1994 leading consumer publication

1995 – Colin McRae and the Subaru team win the 1995 World Rally Championship with a one-two-three finish

1997 – Complete artistic, graphic, and editorial review resulted in makeover to full-size magazine

1997 Summer – First issue of the new format, 24 pages


1997 – The Automobile Association of America (AAA) names the all-new Subaru Forester the “Best SUV priced less than $25,000”

2000 WinterDrive page count increased to 28 pages

2001Drive printed in versions

2002 – Baja is introduced and the Impreza WRX debuts for the U.S. market introduced

2004Drive Performance magazine introduced

2004 – WRX STi debuts for the U.S. market

2005 – B9 Tribeca – the first seven-passenger Subaru – is launched

2006 SummerDrive magazine design refresh

2006 redesigned