The History of Subaru Vehicles

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A History of Subaru: Past, Present & Future

Everyone knows Subaru as the practical, outdoor-focused vehicles known for safety and for the brand's unstoppable Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive. Since SAWD was first introduced in the 1970s, off-road enthusiasts now see it as literally ground-breaking. But Subaru started well before the 1970s and its future will extend well beyond today. Here are some fun facts from Pape Subaru in South Portland ME about these feisty off-road warriors.

How did Subaru start?

Back in the early 1950s, a group of Japanese companies came together to create Fuji Heavy Industries. In a very short time, an automotive division emerged that became known as "Subaru," a name that means "Unite." The very first Subaru was launched in 1954. The first model was turbocharged and was initially called the P-1, a name changed later to the Subaru 1500. It featured front-wheel drive and was the first car with a monocoque body.

The 1500 was followed by the 360 in 1958 and because of its shape became known as the Ladybird, a model that was popular enough to last for 12 years. In the 1960s, Subaru introduced its first truck, the Sambar minitruck. Then in 1966, Subaru unveiled the 1000, the first car equipped with a front-wheel-drive system tied to a horizontally opposed engine. That became the basis for the invention that would eventually define Subaru.

What happened in the 1970s?

At the start of the 1970s, Subaru introduced the GL/DL sedan and related vehicles with four-wheel-drive (4WD), offered for the first time on an on-road vehicle. The GL and DL were soon discovered to be quite capable off-road, especially in ice and snow, thanks to the still-rare 4WD. That capability happened just in time to match an explosion of interest in skiing and fishing, making Subaru the best-selling 4WD in the world. 

The first version of Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive was introduced in September of 1972, serving a modest role as an option on the new Subaru Leone Wagon. It eventually came to embody what Subaru lovers in Scarborough and Windham ME know as Subaru's fearless performance in the great outdoors. 

How would you describe Subaru today?

Since then, Subaru has developed a clearly-defined brand personality as the vehicles for people who love to get far from pavement. Subaru SUVs like the Subaru Forester, its best-selling model, and the Subaru Outback, the more assertive compact SUV, have attracted something close to a cult following in communities like Westbrook and Portland ME. When the company's ads say Subaru is the brand people actually love, the positioning rings true.

What are some other key Subaru personality traits?

Today's Subaru models are taking off-roaders further into the wild with bolder variations like the new Wilderness versions of the Forester and the Outback. Safety continues to be a dominant theme as Subaru keeps winning national recognition for keeping people safe. Subaru technology is symbolized by continuing refinements in Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive, the horizontally-opposed Boxer engine and the EyeSight Driver Assist system.  

Subaru's latest design wrinkle is the dark-themed exterior highlights of the Onyx trim, available on both the new Subaru Outback and the Subaru Ascent. It includes blacked-out badging and black-themed 20-inch wheels. The MySubaru app lets Subaru lovers connect to their vehicles from their smartphones. They can check on the car's mechanical health and to the Subaru Starlink Safety and Security system.

Where does Subaru go from here?

Learn more about the coming 2023 Subaru Solterra, the brand's first electric crossover. But it will be equipped with standard all-wheel-drive, so its off-road credentials will continue to be respected. Drive to our dealership from Yarmouth and Saco ME and get to know the entire Subaru lineup at Pape Subaru in South Portland ME. Find out why Subaru is the brand that will always be defined by love. 

  1. Pape Subaru

    2065 Broadway
    South Portland, ME 04106

    • Sales: 207-775-6222
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