What­next, Rex!

Subaru hints at an oil-burn­ing rocket car, writes Mark Hinchliffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

THE pocket rocket Subaru WRX could even­tu­ally be diesel pow­ered as the Ja­panese com­pany shifts its fuel fo­cus.

Subaru al­ready has diesel-pow­ered cars in its lo­cal line-up, with the em­pha­sis on the Forester and Out­back SUVs, but they are ham­pered by only hav­ing man­ual gear­boxes.

Now Subaru Aus­tralia says it is ‘‘to­tally com­mit­ted to diesel’’ as part of its lo­cal strat­egy.

‘‘We see the (diesel) range ex­pand­ing over time. The next diesel model is ex­pected to be the Im­preza within 12 months,’’ Nick Se­nior, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Subaru Aus­tralia, says.

‘‘There is no time line for other mod­els.’’

Asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of a WRX STI with a diesel en­gine, Se­nior gives a sur­pris­ing re­ply. ‘‘There are no plans, but Ian Thorpe said that for the long­est time about re­turn­ing to swim­ming, too,’’ he says.

Se­nior says Subaru sold 362 dieselpow­ered ve­hi­cles in 2009, but lifted that al­most ten­fold last year to 3162.

Diesels now rep­re­sent more than 10 per cent of Subaru sales and one in three Foresters.

Se­nior says Subaru knows the short­com­ings of its man­ual-only diesel line-up and there will be an au­to­matic next year, but he will not con­firm which mod­els will get it first.

A cen­sus by the Bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics last year showed to­tal diesel-ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tions rose 10.3 per cent in the pre­vi­ous year and diesel ve­hi­cles in­creased from 10.1 per cent of the na­tional fleet in 2005 to 13.8 per cent last year.

The pro­por­tion of petrol ve­hi­cles de­creased from 87.5 per cent to 83 per cent.

Se­nior points out that most of the diesel boom has been in pri­vate pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles, while hy­brid petrol­elec­tric ve­hi­cles have been slow to find ac­cep­tance among pri­vate con­sumers.

‘‘ The Aus­tralian cus­tomer sees diesel as in­creas­ingly rel­e­vant to this mar­ket, com­pared with hy­brids,’’ he says.

VFACTS fig­ures show only 1769 pri­vate pas­sen­ger hy­brids were sold last year, com­pared with 22,262 diesels.

The hy­brid-diesel gap was even wider in SUVs with only 523 pri­vate SUV hy­brids sold last year, com­pared with 35,493 diesel, and 434 SUV non­pri­vate hy­brids com­pared with 44,436 diesels.

Down the track: Subaru does not dis­count a sug­ges­tion theWRXSTI may one day be diesel pow­ered, the same as the Forester (left).

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