In contrast to brands like Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW that have created electric car sub-brands, Subaru is considering electric versions of its existing cars for its first EVs.
In an interview, CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga told Bloomberg News that the strategy would allow it to leverage the Subaru brand's reputation for safety and its current products. "If there's already an attractive Subaru model -- for example, the XV crossover (Crosstrek in the U.S.) -- and if a customer in Beijing wants one but is only allowed to buy an electric vehicle, if there's no electric version, then he can't buy it," he told Bloomberg at the automaker's headquarters in Tokyo. "Providing the choice of an EV means the customer can still desire the same Subaru."
Putting electric drive in an existing car also would mean Subaru could go solo on an EV without partnering with another automaker, such as Toyota, which owns a nearly 17 percent stake in Subaru. He said the approach would work for Subaru because the brand is defined now by safety, not its boxer gasoline Used Engine .
The plan would stretch the research and development budget that already will be a record $1.2 billion in the current fiscal year ending next March. While that is a lot of R&D spending for the small automaker, it's dwarfed by the budgets of the major global automakers.
As all automakers strive for more electrified powertrains to meet tightening emissions standards worldwide, Subaru is aiming to have a plug-in hybrid on sale in 2018 and a full EV by 2021, the CEO told the news service. It is giving that effort priority over connectivity and autonomy development.
Separately, he said the next priority for research and development is Subaru's EyeSight camera-based safety and driver assistance system, and that he will try to hold down costs so the brand can offer the technology on all models.