March 28 Subaru unveiled its first
gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, the XV Crosstrek SUV hybrid,
at the New York auto show on Thursday, as the Japanese carmaker
aims to expand its customer base and boost sales further in its
key U.S. market.
Subaru, owned by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, will
start selling the hybrid sport-utility vehicle this summer in
Japan and in the autumn in the United States.
The all-wheel drive vehicle will run in electric-only mode
at low speeds, while the electric motor will assist the gasoline
engine at medium speeds, Fuji Heavy said in a news release.
"For companies that have already come out with hybrid
technologies, fuel efficiency preceded over other matters," said
Toshio Masuda, a corporate vice president at Fuji Heavy.
"But we will not give up on the potentials of the SUV and
instead use hybrid technology to add more functions," Masuda
told reporters in Tokyo this month ahead of the unveiling at the
New York International Auto Show, which is open to the public
from Friday through April 7.
The company did not disclose the mileage or price of the
Fuji Heavy, whose best-selling Subaru vehicles in the United
States are the Outback wagon and the Forester compact SUV, aims
to boost its U.S. sales by 8 percent to 365,000 vehicles in
2013. That would mark a record high for the fifth consecutive
year in the United States, its biggest market.
Last year, Subaru sold 7,375 XV Crosstrek SUVs in the United
States after the vehicle went on sale in the autumn. The company
expects the hybrid version will account for up to 20 percent of
the XV Crosstrek's U.S. sales, Masuda said.
With the launch of the vehicle, Fuji Heavy joins other
carmakers by using its own gasoline-electric hybrid technology.
In a hybrid vehicle, a battery captures energy from the brakes
to provide a supplement to the combustion engine, boosting
overall mileage especially in stop-and-go city traffic.
Hybrid sales accounted for roughly 3 percent of the U.S.
vehicle market in 2012. In Japan, that percentage was a hefty 40
percent of the industry total, helped by government subsidies
and tax incentives.
The best-selling hybrid in the United States is Toyota Motor
Corp's Prius, with 236,659 vehicles sold in 2012. Fuji
Heavy is 16.47 percent owned by Toyota, but the hybrid
technology used in the XV Crosstrek is different from that used
in the Prius.
Subaru's U.S. sales rose 26 percent in 2012 to 336,441
vehicles, and its Japan sales rose 12 percent to 177,715
vehicles. Its global sales also hit a record high of 706,612
vehicles last year, and the automaker aims to expand that to
750,000 vehicles this year.