Subaru risks Fall to Earth while Reaching for BEV Sun

Subaru has announced the name for its first global BEV developed in collaboration with Toyota, the Solterra.

Derived rather grandiosely from the Latin for sun and earth, the name can do little to mask the future problems of differentiation that brands like Subaru will face in the race to all-electric powertrains. That’s because the brand has built most of its carbuyer fan-base on its innovative horizontally opposed ICE powertrains.

Its four cylinder water-cooled ‘boxer’ gasoline and diesel engines enjoyed a near unique power delivery that, while being smooth, retained a special character that, combined with the advantage of very low center of gravity, led to huge sporting success through the years on the World Rally Car scene. A reputation that resounded strongly with both sporting car buyers and off-road users.

Now that differentiator has gone with the current crop of BEV powertrains that share a simple modular characteristic from one brand to another. Even its chassis platform is not unique – it will be built on the BEV dedicated e-Subaru Global Platform, itself jointly-developed by Subaru and Toyota.

This, while cheaper to produce and allowing Subaru to roll out various types of EVs by combining multiple modules and components, further dilutes the vehicle’s differentiation with other brands. Subaru appears to recognize this threat and clutches at straws in its statement: “While the two companies have brought together their knowledge to create a completely new platform, Subaru have aimed to realize superior passive safety and vehicle stability, which Subaru has always been pursuing, also in this BEV dedicated platform.”

Naturally, the Solterra will boast all-wheel drive but that is no longer anything of a differentiator among BEVs where systems simply become 4x4s with the additional of an electric motor to both axles. While most car enthusiasts will still wish the best for the Solterra, which is due to go on sale in Japan, the US, Canada, Europe and China in 2022, it is hard to see that niche brands like Subaru will survive the long-term in a BEV world.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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