SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM

For nearly two decades Prodrive ran the Subaru World Rally Team in the FIA World Rally Championship.  It is frequently held up as one of the best examples of how motorsport can re-invent a brand. From 1990, when the first rally car hit the stage to 2008, the image of Subaru changed from an almost unknown Japanese manufacturer of city cars and mini vans, to a global performance brand making the best all wheel drive performance cars for the road.  At the same time, the blue and gold Subaru Impreza became the icon of world rallying, with a cult following of millions of fans across the globe, a following that still remains today a decade since the rally programme ended.

WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONS

Prodrive helped Subaru win the FIA World Rally Championship six times: three drivers' titles and three manufacturers'

1995  Drivers' & Manufacturers' Champions

1996  Manufacturers' Champions

1997  Manufacturers' Champions

2001  Drivers' Champions

2003  Drivers' Champions

DRIVING SALES & PROFIT

During the 1990s, success on the world rally stage helped drive Subaru's sales profile from low value mini passenger vans, predominantly in the domestic Japanese market, towards its high value, Legacy, Impreza and Forester models sold internationally.

The graph shows how this move dramatically increased the company's sales and profits.

Subaru car sales (billion Yen)

Subaru car profit (billion Yen)

FROM RALLY TO ROAD

Subaru cars used a longitudinally mounted, flat four 'boxer' engine mounted to a symmetrical all wheel drive system.  This layout was part of Subaru's DNA and unique in global car design.  This foundation was instrumental in helping to create a championship winning rally car and, in turn, it helped Subaru market this approach as the best solution for a performance road car.

CHANGING PERCEPTIONS

When Subaru started rallying in 1990, the company was almost unknown outside Japan and those that did were typically people who bought its minivans and pick up trucks.  Rally success soon changed that, as first the Subaru Legacy and then the Impreza changed perceptions of the brand.  

This chart shows the results of an annual survey carried out by top German automotive magazine Auto Motor Und Sport - on the percentage of people agreeing to 'a manufacturer of sporty cars'.

Subaru

Mitsubishi

Mazda

Nissan

Toyota

PERFORMANCE DERIVATIVES

Subaru further capitalised on its success in the World Rally Championship by creating niche limited edition road cars to draw an even closer relationship between its road and rally cars.

The limited edition cars were engineered and manufactured off the production line by Prodrive and sold by the dealerships.  Not only did they sell for a significant premium and offer greater margins, but they helped raise the performance image of all the cars in the range.

More than a dozen special editions were created since 1995.

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