You have to hand it to GM. They may not be as quick to react to opportunities as deadly rival Ford, but when they eventually wake up to reach into their deep pockets they do get it right -- sometimes. Well, handing over millions of yen to Fuji Industries (owners of Subaru) was certainly one of their best moves in a long while. Let me put it another way. No family needs a better car than the Legacy I have been driving lately. As the man who delivered it to our American HQ said -- these people would not know how to spell "status symbol." How right He was. Leave your prejudices at home, ignore what valets think of you, Get into one of these totally reliable, comfortable 25 thousand dollar automobiles and ask yourself what is it that cars costing double the price have apart from what is euphemistically called "prestige?!"
The engine is an indestructible gem, the five-speed gearbox is excellent, the instrumentation is good, and the seats are comfortable. Yes, of course the wood is plastic but that seems to be de rigeur these days I am afraid, especially in Japanese cars. But, even in the midst of the plastic there is a lovely little touch. The second cup holder, the one for the passenger is very cleverly and unobtrusively hidden in a way I have never seen before. My wife, a BMW owner, was seriously impressed as was my 89 year old Mother in Law.
One only has to go to see "real" people off the beaten track, miles From Rodeo Drive to find lots and lots of Subaru's driven by what I would call sensible people. They are not bothered by the lack of styling (I wonder how many millions Subaru saves by not having a styling studio?) and the consequent lack of glamour. All they want is an honest to goodness car that will get them from A to B on country roads carrying anything from carpets to lawnmowers.
Not that any Subaru owner has to rough it, you understand. This Subaru has permanent all wheel drive, disc brakes all round, dual airbags, daytime running lights which go out if you are stationary at the traffic lights (another great idea by the way), a great, sweet sounding 2.5 liter horizontally opposed engine, independent suspension, radial tires, the list is endless. Throw in a moonroof, leather upholstery, radio/cassette/CD player, A/C and you are beginning to wonder how they can do it for the money.
They are not in Grand Prix racing, they are not at Le Mans, but they do get very seriously involved in rallying. Their distinctive blue cars are forever on the TV leaping over obstacles in far flung places such as New Zealand and East Africa. Places where you have to be tough to get to the finish. Once again this is very Subaru. No fancy grand stand, hundreds of PR people, silly prices (you don't have to pay a penny to watch the action!) and lots of mindless posing. Just lots of enthusiasts standing by the side of the road cheering on their favorites whilst getting soaked (RAC rally of Great Britain) or frozen (Monte Carlo rally in January).
I must confess -- they do have a secret weapon. It is a British company by the name of Prodrive, owned by the charismatic Dave Richards. His people are behind the rally successes and it is all the know-how they find out the very hard way what goes into the next generation of Subaru-s.
I just hope that their enthusiasm, their integrity, their profound knowledge of solid automotive values will not get lost in the endless corridors of the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.