Subaru: From Airplanes to Rally Cars

The automaker we know as Subaru began as an auto division for Fuji Heavy Industries, a multinational conglomerate which itself began as the Nakajima Aircraft Company. Founded in 1918 by a naval engineer by the name of Chikuhei Nakajima, the company worked with the Imperial Japanese Army and had five fully operational facilities producing aircraft during WWII. After the war, the company was dissolved which and resulted in the founding of Fuji heavy industries.

In 1953 the company decided to move into several fields of manufacturing including scooters, coach building and began production development of the P-1 passenger car. The P-1 was a four passenger vehicle that featured 1.5 liter engine and was renamed Subaru for the 1955 model year. In 1958 Subaru introduced the 360 which was the first mass-produced vehicle made by the fledgling automaker. The concept behind the 360 was he same as that which prompted Henry Ford to design the Model T: to provided an economical car that your average person could afford to buy. Manufactured until 1981, the 360 was a micro car that weighed only 900 lbs. and a wheelbase smaller than today's smallest Smart ForTwo.

Subaru Breaks into the US Market

By 1968 Subaru had begun to be introduced in the American market coinciding with buyouts by Nissan and, later, GM. In August of 1977 Subaru reused the first BRAT for North American markets based on the Subaru station wagon of the time which featured offer four-wheel-drive as well as small truck bed. Due to the gas crisis at the time, these smaller Subarus became extremely popular, so much so that the United States government issued a “chicken tax” on importation of commodities such as light trucks. Subaru was able to get around this by adding two rear facing “jump seats” in the Subaru BRAT which removed it from the light-duty truck classification.

Subaru Tecnica International Is Born

In the early 80s Subaru began work on its continuously variable transmissions (CVT) which didn't use conventional gears found in transmissions of the day; rather they employed two pulleys capable of changing their overall circumference. This cutting-edge design is now incorporated in may of today's vehicles due to its increased efficiency when compared to a conventional geared transmission. In 1988 Subaru established its Subaru Tecnica International (STI) subsidiary that designs racing components as well as assists in the development of Subaru’s FIA World Rally Championship vehicles.

Subaru Today

In the years to come Subaru would experience its global manufacturing numbers and company’s popularity increase. Subaru based their marketing techniques on the fact that they offered all-wheel-drive platforms for their vehicles. The company has also become almost synonymous with rallying as a result of its multiple wins in the rally championships. In 2005 Toyota purchased 8.7% of Subaru’s parent company Fuji Heavy Industries from General Motors. The joint operation would lead to three vehicles being produced under the names of the Subaru BR-Z, Toyota FT-86, Scion FR-S.







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