Subaru unveiled its all-new 2017 Impreza in New York this past week. The Impreza, a compact all-wheel-drive sedan, is the company's third-best-selling model -- but it represents the first fruit of a big bet by Subaru's corporate parent.
What Subaru said about the new Impreza: "The all-new 2017 Impreza debuts the Subaru Global Platform architecture that's designed to deliver significantly higher levels of driving pleasure, agility, crash protection and ride comfort and will underpin a variety of upcoming Subaru vehicles, including hybrids," the company said in a statement.
Subaru's press materials for the new Impreza attributed "major gains in handling performance, crash safety, and ride comfort" to the Impreza's new architecture. As with the outgoing model, the new Impreza will be available in both sedan and "five-door" hatchback styles.
Both will be equipped with a revised version of Subaru's 2.0-liter "boxer" four-cylinder, generating 152 horsepower, and a new continuously variable transmission that features a paddle-shifted 7-speed sport mode.
Why it's significant: The 2017 Impreza is the first new Subaru to be based on what the company calls its Global Platform, a highly flexible architecture that will eventually underpin all Subarus.
What's that mean? It means that in the not-too-distant future, Subarus from the small Impreza to the brawny midsize Outback will share many "under the skin" parts and much of their core engineering, improving the small automaker's economies of scale. It also means that all of Subaru's assembly lines will be able to build all of Subaru's vehicles, allowing the company to more easily adjust its production to meet shifting market demand.
Other automakers are in the process of moving their products to one (or a few) highly flexible shared global architectures, including giants Toyota (NYSE:TM) and General Motors (NYSE:GM). (The new 2016 Prius is the first Toyota built on that company's new shared architecture.) For the giants, it makes a lot of sense; for much smaller Subaru, it makes even more sense -- not least because the shift will allow Subaru to invest more heavily in advanced technology to keep pace with its bigger rivals.
Subaru has a substantial presence in the U.S., but by global automaking standards, it's a tiny company. Corporate parent Fuji Heavy Industries (NASDAQOTH:FUJHY) invests carefully and conservatively in Subaru, with an emphasis on quality. The result has been a good one: handsome profit margins and lots of loyal customers.
What's next: The all-new 2017 Impreza will arrive at U.S. dealerships in "late 2016," Subaru said. Pricing hasn't yet been revealed, but it's expected to start at a price not too much above the outgoing model's $18,295 base price.
John Rosevear owns shares of General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.