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