Although it is one of the smaller automakers in the world, Subaru has a large presence in the U.S. market, easily outselling Volkswagen and a handful of other larger brands. Owned by Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru is dominated by crossovers and SUVs. With one exception Subaru offers standard all-wheel drive across its product line.
Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, traces its roots to 1915 when it began as an aircraft research company. Later, it produced airplanes that were used by the Japanese military during World War II.
Fuji expanded into car production in the 1950s, introducing the 1954 Subaru 1500, a compact sedan sourced from French automaker Peugeot. The Subaru name means “unite” in Japanese and is also a term that identifies the Pleiades star cluster in the Taurus constellation and the six stars visible to the naked eye. Thus, when one observes the Subaru logo it represents both the stars and the companies that united to form Subaru.
Through its earliest years and up through its introduction to the U.S. market in 1968, Subaru built small cars and van-like vehicles, chiefly for its own market before introducing larger vehicles in the 1970s. Subaru USA was established by automobile mogul Malcolm Bricklin and Harvey Lamm. Later, Fuji gained full control of the operation.
The Subaru 360 was the first model sold in the U.S. This rear-wheel drive minicar came with a 356cc engine. It was followed by larger models over the coming decade. In 1977, the Subaru Brat was introduced, which was the forerunner of the later Subaru Baja pickup truck.
The 1980s witnessed Subaru transitioning to all-wheel drive on some models and building on engineering it introduced in the early 1970s. Beginning in 1997, the brand switched exclusively to all-wheel drive, with the lone exception being its Subaru BRZ sports car, a rear-wheel drive model introduced in 2013.
In 1990, the Subaru Legacy was introduced and initially sold in both sedan and wagon body styles. The current Subaru Legacy is offered as a midsize sedan only.
Three other Subaru models were introduced in the 1990s and remain in production to this day. The Impreza is a compact model that later yielded the performance-oriented Impreza WRX and WRX STI, and was introduced in 1992. Two crossover SUVs followed, the midsize Outback and the smaller Subaru Forester.
In 2005, Subaru introduced its first model with room for seven, the B9 Tribeca SUV. That model was later renamed the Subaru Tribeca before it was discontinued in 2014.
The Subaru BRZ broke the exclusive all-wheel drive line when this rear-wheel drive sports car was introduced in 2013. This model is built in cooperation with Toyota and is twinned with the Scion FR-S.
In 2013, the Subaru line was expanded further with the introduction of the compact XV Crosstrek SUV. Subaru officially separated its Impreza and WRX lines for 2015, with the latter including the high-performance STI edition.