How Subaru Changed the All-New 2015 Outback

Subaru's U.S. chief talks about the challenges of doing an all-new version of a beloved and successful product.

Jun 8, 2014 at 3:02PM

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The 2015 Subaru Outback was unveiled in New York in April. It's all-new, but it's not dramatically different -- an incremental improvement that should please Subaru's many fans. Source: Subaru.

Subaru announced last week that its all-new 2015 Outback would start at $25,745, a price that puts it just about $100 above the starting price of the outgoing model.

That's a tiny increase for an all-new model, but Subaru says it's hoping that the new Outback will increase its sales.

That's not to say that Outback sales have been bad -- not at all. It has lost some sales recently to Subaru's own Forester, which was new last year. Forester sales are up over 50% so far this year, while the (outgoing) Outback's are up a little over 4%.

But for much of its life, the Outback has been Subaru's best-seller in the U.S. -- and the U.S. is Subaru's most important market. 

Subaru is the automotive division of Japan's Fuji Heavy Industry (NASDAQOTH:FUJHY). It's a much smaller company than Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda, with a much more limited model range. But the company updates and refreshes that model range exceptionally well, and its endearing, long-lived products have earned it fierce customer loyalty. 

Subaru's careful approach to updating its products has worked out very well for Fuji Heavy, and for its shareholders. The stock isn't well known in the U.S., but maybe it should be: Over the past two years, it has risen more than 250%. 

Subaru revealed the new Outback at a big event at the New York International Auto Show in April. We were there, and we got a close-up look at the new Outback and spoke to some of the people responsible for it. 

We also captured much of the presentation on video to share with you. In the following segment, the first of three parts, you'll hear Subaru's U.S. chief, Tom Doll, talking just before the new Outback was presented to the media. You'll hear him review the Outback's history, how that history has led to the new 2015 version -- and how Subaru has evolved the new Outback while being careful not to mess with its winning formula. Check back Monday night to see Part 2.

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