Osamu Namba, Subaru's new design chief wants to help move the company from a cult brand adored by outdoorsy types, Snowbelt buyers and performance enthusiasts into a mainstream brand capable of competing with offerings from major automakers.
"We want to broaden the appeal to make it accessible to more than a small, loyal crowd," Namba said in an interview with Automotive News. According to Namba, form has traditionally followed function at Subaru, as their design was dictated by the low-mounted boxer engines, tall roofs (designed to help haul large items like bikes and other lifestyle gear) and sometimes outlandish wings and air scoops, necessitated by the rally-inspired performance items like big brakes and turbochargers.
Namba, who previously ran an independent design studio, was hired by Subaru after previous attempts at developing a unifying design language, faced a strong negative reaction from consumers. One review for the Subaru Tribeca famously called the new winged front fascia a "flying vagina".
Using the current Legacy and Outback as a template, future Subarus will be more accessible, but also bolder, with fewer soft curves and more muscular styling, eschewing the understated and functional designs of the past. "I don't want it to be just something serious and boring," Namba says. "A lot of people don't know that Subaru brand. If we can make styling more accessible, it will bring them in."
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