Subaru’s Vehicles Hit Sweet Spot as Bold Brand Resonates With Consumers

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Subaru Ascent

Subaru is one of the most exciting brands in the auto industry, having picked up market share regularly in the US over the past few years and finding itself in sync with some of the biggest trends in cars—and in branding.

Most important, Subaru has continued to specialize in useful, capable, all-wheel-drive utility vehicles as the American consumer has turned decisively in the direction of such vehicle forms and away from sedans. Now-iconic nameplates such as Subaru Outback and Forester have become solidly ensconced as perpetual winners for a brand that seemed to anticipate America’s SUV fascination.

And now Subaru has added its biggest-ever vehicle to its SUV lineup: Ascent, a three-row behemoth that provides a place for Subaru owners with growing families to graduate from the brand’s smaller models. Under the tagline, “Love Is Now Bigger Than Ever,” the latest iteration of its long-time “Love” positioning, Subaru has just launched an advertising campaign for Ascent, which is a bold entry by a small brand in an increasingly crowded category that has been dominated by industry heavyweights.

Interestingly, as the first three TV ads for Ascent demonstrate, Subaru isn’t pursuing millennials with its big SUV, in a category where other auto brands are going after Generation Y. Rather, Subaru is positioning Ascent as a great solution for Gen-Xers with teenagers, for example, or even might want to use the vehicle’s ample passenger capacity for multigenerational outings.

For Subaru, its remarkable run of outsized success in the US has been based not only on having a lineup of the right vehicles but also of featuring all-wheel drive. It was a pioneer in this technology long before other automakers began catching up and featuring the weather-beating capability as regular equipment across their vehicle lines. Every time there’s an extreme weather event anywhere in the US, it reminds Subaru owners of how fortunate they are.

Subaru has used not only its vehicles but also a bold branding platform to achieve its success in the US market. Under chief US operative Tom Doll, a former financial officer, Subaru has established a brand around social positioning in which it unapologetically tries to appeal to progressives on the coasts, above all. So, for instance, a couple of years ago, a Subaru TV ad featured a teenager and her grandmother searching for the tree at Woodstock where Grandma and Grandpa met and carved their initials.

Yet Subaru takes a back seat to no other automaker in regard to a different characteristic that is important to Americans of all ideological stripes: “Made in America.” Subaru makes many of its vehicles for the US in a plant in Indiana, where until a couple of years ago it actually was also making some vehicles for Toyota. Subaru’s own sales in America burgeoned, so the company appropriated that capacity for its own models—and hasn’t looked back.

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