Posted by: David Kiley on October 5, 2005
When GM bought a minority stake in Fuji Heavy Industries a few years ago, it was to glom onto the great all-wheel-drive technology that the company puts into its Subaru vehicles. The notion was to co-develop some crossover wagons and small SUVs with the best AWD mechanicals in the business.
What GM found was a stubborn partner that would not cave in on its own engineering prowess featuring boxer engines to adapt to GM’s systems. The only thing that came out of the arrangement was the Saab 9-2, which is a warmed over Subaru WRX. And the companies were on track for Saab to market a warmed over version of the Subaru Tribeca SUV. The original idea was for Chevy and or Saturn to co-develop a really slick crossover SUV with GM selling perhaps hundreds of thousands of GM-Subaru developed vehicles to offset the cost of its investment.
GM is selling its stake to raise some cash, and now Toyota will partner with Subaru. I don’t bet much. But I’m willing to venture a few bucks that Toyota manages to partner with Subaru in a way that will mesh its quality with four-wheel drive technology second to none and that Toyota will not encounter the same barriers GM did. In short, GM couldn’t adapt is systems and tooling to work with Subaru’s horizontally opposed “boxer” engine. It makes for a low-slung engine and low center of gravity that is key to Subaru’s great traction in the snow.
Subaru is a great brand with terrific vehicles, especially if you are driving in mud and snow. Pity that GM couldnt figure out a way to make that marriage work, especially since GM is light on really good crossover vehicles. But good for Subaru for standing its ground and not muddying up its own brand.