The Subaru Outback is an institution. Since 1994, Subaru has essentially been the only entry in a segment it created. To be fair, there were a number of mainstream, mid-size wagons offered by rivals for a time. But those weren’t rugged looking and they certainly didn’t offer all-wheel drive. By the mid 2000s they were all gone. Meanwhile, the Outback survived and thrived. Even during the recession. Recently, other automakers tried to get into the market dominated by the Outback. They failed too. Can there be only one? Ford’s upcoming Outback competitor might finally answer that question.
The imminent arrival of the next generation Fusion comes at an auspicious time for anything not named Outback. Volkswagen’s recently cancelled Alltrack was clearly designed to compete with both the Crosstrek and the Outback. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really competitive with either of them. With a starting price of about $28,000, the least expensive automatic Alltrak was about $4,500 more expensive than the cheapest automatic Crosstrek. The Volkswagen was also about $2,000 more expensive than the Outback despite being just under a foot shorter in length. Unsurprisingly, the Alltrak failed to sway many buyers. And the closely related Sportwagen’s lack of standard all-wheel drive probably didn’t help things either.
Like Volkswagen, General Motors thought they could take a piece of that sweet, mid-sized, raised wagon pie. Problem is, they barely ever told anyone what they were doing. Buick excelled at keeping the Regal TourX a secret. At launch they refused to offer any incentives or competitive interest rates. And it never seemed like GM allocated any money towards advertisements either. Could Buick have mounted a serious challenge to the Outback if GM cared more about showing it off? Possibly. But GM outfitted the Regal TourX with a fairly spartan interior and priced it above the Subaru. The roughly $2,000 price difference between the two was probably eliminated by hefty GM incentives, but by the time those became common, it was already too late.
At least one more automaker is set to challenge Subaru with a raised wagon of their own. Over the last several months, various automotive outlets have published shots of what looks like a next gen Fusion test mule driving around Detroit. The body is based on the new Focus estate, but its lengthened chassis clearly fails to hide the fact that Ford is using it to test some type of wagon or crossover. Car And Driver featured some of the latest photos last week and included a link to a piece on Autocar that contained some of the first concrete information about Ford’s future mid-size ambitions.
Basically, the next generation Mondeo is happening. It will most likely use a lengthened and modified variant of the platform that currently underpins the new Focus and 2020 Escape. Europe will get a sedan, wagon, and hatchback. North America and Europe will get an “off-road” variant as well. This is the Outback competitor that is slated to arrive next year. It all adds up. Ford recently clarified that the “zombie” Fusion will continue production into calendar year 2021. It’s probably not a coincidence that Hermosillo, where the Fusion is currently made, will eventually be retooled to build the next generation Transit Connect, the Fusion wagon, and whatever they call the pickup designed to slot below the Ranger. All three vehicles will probably use the Focus/Escape platform.
Aside from kinda revealing that Ford originally planned to call the North American wagon the Mondeo, the Autocar piece used a Ford parts ordering catalog as evidence that all of this is happening. The leaked document references a tool necessary for removing of a rear leaf spring. A leaf spring setup strongly suggests Ford is planning on fitting the Fusion wagon with a hybrid battery. This is where I think Ford has a real chance to create a true Outback competitor.
How should Ford equip their Outback competitor? In terms of styling, they don’t need to do much. The Mondeo wagon has aged incredibly well and keeping that look will instantly tell people that they’re looking at a Fusion wagon. Ultimately, it’s going to be the powertrains that determine the soft-roader’s success. If the Blue Oval wants their Outback competitor to succeed, it should come standard with all-wheel drive. That’s the best way to compete with something like the Outback. Additionally, it needs to match the Outback’s size and base MSRP. Given the Outback’s 191 inch length and 73 inch width, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Ford can also equip the next generation Fusion with the 2020 Escape’s 1.5 cylinder EcoBoost. It is competitive with the Outback’s base four cylinder in terms of performance and it should allow Ford to keep the Fusion at the same price point as the Subaru. A base 2020 Escape S with all-wheel drive starts at $26,975, or just $300 more than the 2020 Outback.
But the Fusion can’t simply match the Outback in price or performance. That’s a recipe for failure. It has to boast something the Outback absolutely cannot match. Fortunately, Ford can easily equip the upcoming wagon with a powertrain that can do just that: the 2.5 liter four cylinder Atkinson cycle hybrid system currently available on the Escape. In the Escape, the hybrid powertrain boasts an output of about 200 horsepower, can propel the crossover from 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds, and returns 40 mpg combined on the EPA cycle. A mechanical all-wheel drive system is optional. Given the Fusion’s history as a hybrid and the rumors suggesting the Escape-based mini Bronco will be available as one, this predication isn’t terribly bold.
Ford’s best shot at making the Outback stand out is to offer the hybrid all-wheel drive powertrain as an upgrade option. Obviously, it would probably be more expensive than a base Outback. But it would be just as capable off-road, significantly more fuel efficient, and when compared to Subaru’s CVT equipped 2.5 liter boxer four, quieter and more refined. The only wrench in this plan is if Subaru gets ahead of Ford with their own hybrid, but as of right now there is nothing to suggest such a system is arriving, at least anytime soon.
Additional performance variants like an ST model would help distinguish the Fusion too. But the hybrid seems like their strongest option against an entrenched competitor like the Outback. With over 85% of the American wagon segment to itself, the Outback is a tough nut for Ford to crack. But if they put real effort into the next Fusion, they just might be able to succeed where others have failed.
Another scenario is that none of this matters much, if at all. It’s entirely possible the Outback simply attracts a certain type of demographic that keeps coming back to it because of what it represents. After all, it’s not really a wagon in the strictest sense. At 66 inches high, the 2020 model is just as tall as the 2020 Ford Escape. But Ford, like other automakers before it, sees at least some value in playing in the same sandbox as Subaru. If Ford plays its card right, it could carve a out its own little raised wagon niche. And they might just win over some Outback owners in the process.
By looking at the nose of the Subaru, you could take that Outback plate off, stamp the Ford logo in that blue oval on the grille, and you’d be done.
The Outback sells for a few reasons, none of which a Fusion wagon will have.
(1) Image. I got one when I was single & 25. Not many wagons out there for people to buy that are “cool”. Granted, they’ve become much more of a baby-shuttle since their popularity exploded, but they’re still the go-to for the mountain bike, camping, hiking, dog set. Subaru’s corporate responsibility & progressive policies since the 90’s have helped here too.
(2) Capabilities. It’s been beat to death, but the AWD & ground clearance are superior to any other soft-roaders. There’s a reason they’re the go-to cars for people living in remote parts of Vermont, Colorado, Washington, Montana, etc too, and it ain’t image…
A Ford Fusion-X or whatever will fail on both counts, like the most other wagon-crosses. Anyone who wants a Ford but needs inclement weather abilities is still going to a choose a CUV/SUV, and no one drawn in by Subarus image will be tempted by a Ford.
This is exactly right. Ford could test the waters with an off-road package for the Eacape. Not just graphics, but increased ground clearance, skid plates, better tires etc. Throw in some traction/low gearing aids (perhaps hybrid electric based) and come up with a catchy name. That’s essentially what Subaru did to the Legacy to create the Outback, and later Impreza/Crosstrek, but Ford could take it further to leapfrog Subaru. Think Escape Raptor or Tremor. Even then it’s a stretch to beat 25 years of Outback, but just building an AWD wagon ain’t enough.
That would be more of a Cherokee competitor. I don’t know if the Escape has the style to pull it off.
A catchy name like Bronco Sport? because that is coming and that is its deal with it an Escape with increased ground clearance and more of a SUV look.
I didn’t know that was coming. But looking at the spy shots, I don’t know if it’s a whole lot more than an Escape with a different body. It looks rather awkward, low to the ground and a long snout.
Hard to say from those spy shots, it looks like there is stuff under the wrap intended to hide things, I doubt the real vehicle will look like someone taped a section of a cardboard box on the bumper corners and is permanently carrying a sheet of plywood on the roof. Other spy shots I’ve seen seem to show more room between the tires and body.
1) Here in WA where the Outback has been the best selling car for a number of years the vast majority are baby shuttles, at least when new. That is what has fueled Subaru’s growth, not the under 25 crowd that buy them used.
2) From the spy shots of the Active mule it looks like it should match the Outback’s ground clearance or maybe even beat it. Subarus are the choice of city dwellers and suburbanites. Just like the under 25 crowd those in the remote parts of the state, if they have a Subaru instead of a Pickup, Tahoe or Suburban they bought it used, just like the under 25 crowd.
Yes, but why are suburbanites & city dwellers buying them? 90% (1) & 10% (2). A couple of new parents who lives in Capitol Heights is choosing an Outback to replace their Civic, because maybe they take it skiing/camping once a year, but more importantly they like the way it looks like they’re outdoorsy, in a way that a RAV4/CRV just doesn’t convey. Anyone worried that an Outback is too much of a “mom-car” is going to be way more put off by a CR-V being a “grandma-car”.
Do not forget Canada where Subaru sells a lot of Outbacks as well as the other models. I have a 2019 Outback 3.6 and really enjoy it.
Judging from the current Escape and their AWD history, I’d be very surprised if what Ford comes out with is a true Outback competitor. On the other hand, I suppose that there’s plenty of space in their product lineup for a more rugged and masculine wagon of that size.
The Outback’s success doesn’t seem like a complicated formula, it’s odd that nobody has seriously gone after it after all this time.
It’s got a pretty good shot at success, assuming they give it the higher hip point that crossover buyers want. Ford’s a big name with a lot of showroom traffic and I’m guessing the new Escape is going to be very popular despite regressing back toward hatchback styling and stance.
The TourX failed because it is everything the market doesn’t want: Buick, low slung, Buick, unmistakably station wagon, Buick, no ground clearance, Buick.
That said, I’m not interested in the upcoming Fusion. I like the current one and kind of regret not scouring for a undervalued 2.0T on the used car market instead of our Camry.
Ford is attacking the compact crossover segment with two vehicles – the Escape and upcoming “baby” Bronco Sport (which is supposed to be revealed at the upcoming New York Auto Show).
The Escape is for buyers who want a “softer,” more car-like crossover. The Bronco Sport will appeal to people who want something that looks more rugged.
Whether this will work remains to be seen, but give Ford credit for recognizing that the market is in flux and that it thus needs to develop new strategies to meet this challenge.
Yeah, the crossover market is hot enough to slice very thinly across models. The Escape/Bronco Sport strategy is an interesting one. We’ll see if there’s room for the new Fusion. There aren’t many longer lifted midsize wagons like the Outback, although I would have thought someone wanting a 2-row crossover bigger than an Escape would go to the Edge. Surprised there’s enough air space between the two for yet another crossover, but I’m not in the market so people are seeing things that I am not.
This isn’t that far off of the strategy from the 70’s of having the Chevelle and Monte Carlo, or the Torino/LTD II and the Elite/Thunderbird.
I think the real reason that sedans are dying is due to styling. Earlier sedans and coupes actually had trunks that you could load cargo into, not a mail slot that is typical with current sedans. For instance, the trunk on my 70 Charger is rather large, even with a full-size spare. Our family’s 81 Olds 98 swallowed plenty of luggage for trips to Florida, again with a full-size spare.
It’s no wonder then that buyers are choosing SUVs due to the flexible cargo space and to a lesser extent the increased ride height.
I think Ford’s plan is the best path for the Fusion but some people still prefer sedans, just with a usable cargo area. It will be hard to sway Subaru loyalists though, they may keep a few in the Ford flock but the image Subaru has cultivated is a strong one. Ford has been fighting some bad press lately with the transmission debacle, etc.
I like it. Saw and drooled over plenty of Mondeo wagons in Norway last year. I’m all for market alternatives to the Outback with Subaru’s subpar reliability issues and flat brim hat/neck beard image.
What subpar reliability issues are you referring to? CR wouldn’t recommend them if they had reliability issues.
Your mileage may vary but I loved Subaru so much that I bought two Foresters. Gave one to my granddaughter. BOTH cars had ma$$ive air conditioner failure not far out of factory warranty. Big disappointment. I used to love the brand; now…. not.
I’m driving an Outback right now as a dealer loaner. I find it loud, slow and ugly. If Ford were to offer an improvement in all those areas, I’d say they would have a winner on the technical front. Where they could easily fall down is in the quality and dealer experience areas. If they offered this Mondeo/Fusion in brown with a manual transmission, I could maybe overcome my apprehension…
I had a 4-cylinder as a loaner about a year ago. I found it buzzy, harsh riding, and generally dull. Also drove with a friend a few weeks ago halfway across the country and back in a CrossTrek. About the best I can say about that is that it was OK. Below average in most every way besides the AWD.
I don’t mind the Outback’s looks, which are subjective, but I believe image, safety, capability, and build quality are Subaru’s main selling points. Which is a lot, really, regardless of the driving experience.
What about diesel?
The Outback succeeds because of the Cult of Subaru and how it treats customers as future customers. Much like the loyalty inspired by the Beetle and the other air-cooled offerings in the Cult of Volkswagen, few of the devotees will stray. These people were repelled by the toxic behavior of the sales and service department at their local Ford (and Chevrolet, Dodge, etc.) dealers long ago.
Ford’s attempt to hide, deny and constant refusal to equitably address their defective transmission issues has done nothing for their reputation, and the latest news about that is a mere Google search away.
I’d like to see it but it’s more than a little disingeneous that all of a sudden Ford is getting the wagon religion. Where was a Fusion wagon for the last almost decade, and Focus as well?; it’s not like both weren’t readily available in other markets. I just can’t see them really supporting it, it’s very much a “me-too” vehicle hoping to perhaps siphon off some Subaru sales, more likely it’ll win some over that weren’t really going to buy a Subaru anyway. The new Escape doesn’t help the situation as suddenly it’s become much softer looking. Look at the majority of the Subaru lineup, (excepting WRX and BRZ) it all sort of coalesces around the chunkiness of the Outback. They well know which is their golden goose and build around it.
Ford’s other problem is that their focus on the F150, big trucks, and all the baggage that comes with them doesn’t play that well with the Outback image and (at least the advertised) crowd that is attracted to them.
Subaru does have some quality problems, they do admit them and generally seem to do things right by their customers from what I can see. Still, if reliability and durability is the metric, then Subaru stands ahead of Ford, GM, and VW as competition to the Outback throne, at least as far as the general consumer is concerned. To say nothing about resale value/record.
VW had the best shot (in my opinion) but dropped the ball by not offering a Passat wagon / Alltrack version, thus leaving the Golf as a too-small alternate. Note that Audi has just reintroduced the A6 Allroad to our shores again, this despite the Q5 outselling the A4 Allroad by around 10:1. They must believe that the larger size will be an attraction. No I’m not suggesting that either Audi is a real Outback competitor, the price point is too different.
The other aspect is just the seating feel. Having been in numerous Outbacks and a few recent Ford Fusions (albeit not a Fusion/Mondeo wagon) the Fusion’s seating positions front and back seem to be much lower/laid back, the Buick I think suffers from this as well, whereas the Outback (and the VW) offer a seemingly more upright position.
I also have to wonder how the Subaru Ascent plays into this. I’ve always considered that as much more of a Toyota Highlander competitor but it could well also be taking some sales from the Explorer. I’m sure somewhere is data that shows what is traded in on an Explorer and I wonder if perhaps the Outback trade-ins have dipped since the Ascent debuted. Subarus biggest problem was they didn’t have a larger vehicle once a family outgrew an Outback, perhaps Ford is looking to reverse the upgrade path by getting smaller families in to their wheelhouse sooner.
If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to watch!
The new Escape is part of a two pronged attack, and it is the one that is meant for the person who just wants the “right” entry height and the security of AWD with zero concern about going off road or having the image of an off roader. The Bronco Sport is coming and that will undoubtedly have more SUV like styling along with a higher ride height for that off roader image.
Why are we still calling the Ouback a wagon? It’s taller than the 2020 Escape, and essentially the same height as the other CUVs. It’s a crossover that happens to have a slightly longer cargo area.
Even Volvo calls its V60 and V90 “crossovers”.
Probably because the original post refers to it as such and even links to another post saying it has 85% of the wagon segment to itself.
But I consider it one because the exact same body is available elsewhere without a ride height increase and cladding and sold as a wagon.
“But I consider it one because the exact same body is available elsewhere without a ride height increase and cladding and sold as a wagon.”
That’s no longer true as of 2015. Legacys are now sedan only, Outbacks are now wagon-only. But I also classify the Outback as a lifted wagon, like any Allroad, Alltrack, or Cross Country model, specifically because it doesn’t have a dedicated taller body. A Legacy front door will still bolt up to an Outback.
Your argument has a certain logic, and is one I’ve used before to define a CUV. But since the Outback undoubtedly accounts for the overwhelming percentage of Legacy/Outback production, I prefer to see the Legacy as a lowered CUV sedan. 🙂
Actually, I’m serious, as there’s no doubt the Outback was the prime development object for this latest, and likely the previous generation. And of course there was an Outback sedan at one time.
My question was essentially rhetorical. It is and it isn’t, because these definitions have become increasingly fuzzy. Clearly you’ll never see the word “wagon” in any of Subaru’s marketing content.
Paul, your comment makes me realize that a Legacy with Outback ride height and cladding would be kinda awesome… a new AMC Eagle.
They’d probably be outsold by the Murano Convertible, but they’d be awesome.
THE OUTBACK IS NOT A WAGON!
The original Outback was only slightly raised above the Legacy wagon. However when the Outback got the ride height of an SUV part of Subaru’s reason at the time was that if it was raised high enough the Outback would fall under truck rules for CAFE.
Ergo the Outback (with 8 plus in of ground clearance) is NOT A WAGON.
@ Chris, Subaru tried that they called it the Legacy SUS for Sport Utility Sedan. At least in some years it carried the SUS badge on the trunk lid.
I’d say that the majority of buyers consider the Outback a CUV or even a SUV and not a Wagon. Yes some car people consider it a Wagon but we are not the majority by a long shot.
On the other hand a former student of mine called her vehicle “my wagon” and it was a CR-V. Her “mother’s wagon” was a Flex.
I can see this vehicle being a success – depending on how we determine what constitutes “success.”
If the measure is whether it steals sales from the Subaru Outback, then most likely not, as that vehicle has a core audience that is loyal to the image associated with both the brand and that particular model.
But I do believe that, given both the number of Ford dealers and current owners of Ford products, there are enough people who will buy one to make it sales and financial success for the company. I can also see it stealing customers from other brands aside from Subaru.
> Since 1994, Subaru has essentially been the only entry in a segment it created.
Obligatory note that 14 years before Subaru “created” it, you could buy an AMC Eagle, an AWD wagon with extra ground clearance and rugged-looking, SUV-like styling cues like cladding, white-lettered tires and a butch-looking grille. Let’s not forget the mid-1980s Toyota Tercel 4wd wagon with a raised roof and even more SUV-like styling cues like an asymmetric rear license plate, or the Honda Civic 4wd wagon.
The Golf Alltrack, despite being slightly raised and cladding-clad, still looked too low-slung and wagon-like, whereas the Outback looks taller and more SUV-like, with genuine high ground clearance to back up its looks and image. The Regal TourX suffers from the same issue and two others: (1) Buick is known for big, tranquil sedans, not rugged wagons or mild off-roaders; I doubt most people shopping for such a vehicle realized Buick even made one, and (2) the Regal’s future was murky because it’s basically a rebadged Opel, and GM sold Opel to PSA. It surprises nobody that there won’t be a next generation of these. I wouldn’t be surprised if a successor eventually bounces back to the U.S. but now made by whatever the merged PSA/FCA decides to call itself. I haven’t a clue which brand it will be sold as.
And well before the Eagle was the Subaru 4WD wagon. And as this ad from 1979 shows, stripes, lifted body and big wheels were all there before the Eagle.
I actually meant but forgot to mention that Subaru was selling 4WD wagons since the mid ’70s; however these used a pickup truck style part-time 4WD system without a center diff that had to be switched off when the roads weren’t slippery (which worked just fine but was an extra step car buyers weren’t used to). And while it had a lifted body, it didn’t have any of the SUV-like “rugged” styling cues applied to the Eagle and Tercel 4WD wagons, and that the Outback depends upon to make it look like an almost-SUV rather than just a Legacy wagon.
Just noticed the RWL tires on the ’70s Subaru so I guess it had at least one SUV-like affectation; can’t remember if the grille was a bit different too. But it still wouldn’t fool anyone into thinking it was a SUV or crossover in the way an Outback would.
Hmm, not sure what month this ad is from, but according to Wikipedia, the AMC Eagle came out in Aug 1979.
However, I think you are right, my Dad bought a 1976 Subaru (2 door, not wagon) I think I still have the brochure, but there was a 4WD wagon available in 1976, however I don’t know how raised it was (maybe a little higher?) but didn’t appear as high to me as the Eagle. The 1976 Subaru was so small I’d worry about it tipping over if it were too high…the Eagle was much larger and would look more stable even when “jacked up”. The ’76 Subaru (which looks about the same as the ’79) was pretty narrow.
My Dad’s Subaru?….FWD only…back then I think Subaru only had the 4WD wagon, the BRAT didn’t come till ’77. He bought it new up in Winooski VT after looking at the Datsun F10 ….we liked Datsun (not how it looked) but what turned us off was the vent on the hood near the carburator…my Dad figured it looked like a last minute engineering change and was leary of it (maybe for carburator icing?). Guess he was an early adopter, but he didn’t continue it…my sister eventually inherited the Subaru in 1980 and didn’t have it long…it rusted pretty quickly. He never bought another Subaru. His was that “odd” pale yellow color with brown vinyl seats (guess they were supposed to look like leather?). No options…though it did have an AM radio and an odd floodlight for the dash that you could turn off (no rheostat for dimming). His was automatic, though he did drive standard my Mother really never liked standard and he wanted her to be able to drive it, though I can’t remember her ever doing so (she drove the ’73 Country Sedan that we also had at the time)…though my memory of 44 years ago is probably suspect.
His had a creased hood as the hood latch failed to hold the hood (even the safety latch didn’t hold it) and it blew open when driving…he used 2 shock cords stretched between the wheel wells to hold down the hood, never bothered to replace the hood (since the car rusted so quickly was probably for the best). I think that’s why he never got another Subaru, thought of them as being too cheaply made, though they did get pretty good gas mileage, and there weren’t too many FWD cars yet available in 1976.
I’m not so sure they will actually bring it to the US. Just because a test mule is spotted in the US doesn’t mean it is destined for sale in the US.
If they do bring it over you can guarantee that there will be a Hybrid option. Ford has said that they are going to offer a Hybrid version of all future models and since this will be built on the same platform as the Escape the space for the under floor battery is there.
Like others here I remain surprised that Ford didn’t compete with Outback plus their hybrid technology many years ago. Ford had full hybrids in 2005, not that long after Toyota (2000 in US) and many years ahead of the rest of the industry. A proper Outback competitor with full hybrid power and electric AWD would have been compelling in Outback’s green-conscious home turf. Ten years ago.
This article was punctuated by a never-ending sequence of Subaru advertisements. Irony…and mere coincidence, or what?
It’s definitely not irony or coincidence, so it must be “or what”.
The Golf Alltrack should’ve been priced with the Crosstrek, they’re both C-segment vehicles; the fact it was priced above the Outback despite being smaller was what killed it. That and rumor has it the Golf Variant will be killed off worldwide – which may not happen right away since the mk8 seems to carry over the present hard points but if not it’d likely be the last.
Buick’s lack of marketing enthusiasm for the Regal – fastback as well as TourX – is understandable since it came from Opel which was on the block even when this car was in the planning stages and was sold to PSA not long after Regals started to ship. The company knew it would be a one-and-done, a ’61 DeSoto if you will, and figured any work to sell it would be wasted effort.
I think the Fusion wagon’s success depends directly on marketing effort and will be inverse to the Ram pickup’s. If Ford sees the latter as a threat, all resources will be devoted to keeping the F-Series’ #1 spot, if they can breathe a bit Ford’ll be able to give the Fusion wagon the image-building push it’ll need.
Subaru is the new Volvo. Subaru sells because it is “acceptable” in the demographic it targets and because it has cultivated a reputation for safety. I suppose some of the Outback’s appeal is to those who appreciate its engineering qualities, but not a lot.
Ford will never crack this market. As said above, Ford is 1) the company that makes the F series truck and the Expedition, 2) the company that builds average American cars which are seen as having an average level of safety and quality and 3) which periodically builds rusty junk that the company will not stand behind. If Ford Motor Company makes some structural changes to the Ford Motor Company first, maybe it can be a Subaru competitor in another decade or so. But not any time soon.
It _might_, _ might_ get sales from people who want an Outback but live too far from a Subaru dealer.
I don’t have a problem with this, or with the new Escape. We can’t keep on putting out small SUVs like the CR-V or the RAV-4 or the old Escape for a decade and expect that the market won’t change. This, and the Escape, could be The Change.
I like the car-like styling touches with the height.
I hope it does well.
I owned a 2008 Outback (the previous more wagon like version) and it served me well. One thing I did not see discussed in the this article or the comments was the Toyota Venza. I thought that the Venza was Toyota’s effort to take away some portion of the Outbacks sales success. The Venza did not last all that long, and if Toyota could not play in the Outback sandbox, I do not see Ford being successful in this area.
I could see a Ford Outback having some limited success; probably could take some Outback sales from the Midwest. Plus, I think it’s been said here that the Flex did relatively well in California for a domestic non-truck.
I don’t want to keep beating on the Flex but it hadn’t been able to exceed 25,000 sales NATIONALLY since 2013. The Outback broke 100k in sales back in 2011 and has only gone up, nowadays getting close to 200k per year. That’s just in the US, it is sold worldwide.
Even if every single Flex ever made was sold in CA it still wasn’t a popular vehicle and isn’t seen any more than anything else. Fusion Hybrids actually likely sold better in CA than the Flex ever did.
Subaru could counter the midwest potential by pointing out much more than they currently do that the Outback is actually MADE in the midwest, supporting friends and family, as opposed to the Fusion or FusionTrack etc. Ford’s biggest asset is its large dealer network whereas Subaru is spread more thin.
Don’t disagree with any of this.
The Flex sold well in comparison to its direct competitors in California, and it attracted the type of affluent buyers that all car makers want, and the domestics, in particular, often have trouble attracting:
Was it a wildly popular vehicle in California or anyone else? No, but it attracted a coveted demographic, and it did so without much advertising or marketing support. So while it wasn’t a raging success, it was hardly a flop, either.
Ford has a problem. Their advertising targets truck lovers. Their dealer network is widespread – but generally people who buy fords dont like the dealer experience. Their reliability has been sub par – from what I hear from friends and neighbors. That said, a friend in UK has a fusion wagon and I found it nice and a good size. But I dont see this wagon making much headway here. Especially if it is priced too much above an Escape. I wish them well – because wagons are nice and all, but I”m not seeing it.
Our family fleet has seen three Outbacks, all purchased used and run for many miles. As writers in this forum regularly point out, they are neither exciting, sporty, nor fashionable.
What brought me into the “cult” is their usefulness, and what has kept me buying them is their relative ease of repair. First off, they (the wagon versions) are roomy vehicles, great for carrying kids, bicycles, and all manner of other things that can be stuffed into their cargo areas. I use my old F100 for anything the Outback can’t hold.
The all wheel drive system provides reliable traction in rain and snow, and, along with the higher suspension, gives decent light-duty off-road capability.
As a home mechanic I have come to value the relative ease of repair. Longitudinally mounted engines make maintenance relatively easy. I don’t know what Ford is planning for this, or how relevant this issue is for others, but the relative ease of maintenance and repair have enabled me to run my current Outback for 300,000 miles, with, I expect, several more years of service life remaining. Subaru engines certainly have their idiosyncrasies, but the ease of access has made it possible for me to tackle repairs that I would not likely take on with a transverse mounted engine.
My car only goes to the shop for dealer-specific repairs, and, as others have noted, Subaru is great about warranty work, whereas Ford has a rather checkered past in this regard.
Will Ford produce a vehicle that will be as durable and owner-serviceable as an Outback? We may find out, and good for them if they do. For my money, due to my positive experiences with the Outbacks I have owned, I will not likely consider Ford as a serious contender when my current vehicle is up for replacement. Unless, perhaps, they offer a manual transmission.
If Ford does what they did with the Flex to it will be a flop. The Flex is a fairly reliable, versitile, AWD, 3-row, and in Limited a luxury vehicle. There was not a single penny in it’s advertisment budget. It sold simply from people seeing it’s looks, and taxi companies recognizing it’s functionability. Fusion will be the same or worse if they don’t advertise. Taurus was the same way in recent years. It’s almost like they didn’t want to sell them.
Subaru drivers are the Jehovah Witnesses of the car world, cult like and proselytizing.
“Don’t answer the door, it’s those Subaru people again!”
Lol. You should meet our brethren in the Porsche and Miata clubs….
This has been interesting reading. I think it’s important to mention on the grand scheme of things Subaru is small in comparison. The only reason the other manufacturers are now taking notice is because Subaru has had month over month increases in sales for something like 96 months. Knock knock. Lol. Being a multiple “cult” owner felt inspired to share why I have them. My current fleet consists of 2 2001 Outbacks with 367,000 (never undercoated is fairly rusted over the rear wheels) and 154,000 (undercoated and starting now to rust in the same place), I also have 2 06 Outback sedans 155,000 and 42,000 one is a Limited the other a LL Bean neither have rust. I try to keep the LL Bean nice and only drive in the summer. When I drive the sedans people will stop me occasionally being curious even though there is no roundel. Of course you’re not buying a Subaru to impress your neighbors. None of these cars have had issues since I’ve owned them new except for recalls on break lines for rust (none have needed to be replaced) and Takata airbags. Although they’re no BMW I would say quality is very close having owned them. The LL Bean for example will do 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and the Legacy Spec B is also quite fun. Maybe some day they bring them back. Where they shine is in the inclement weather or the large entrance or exit ramps or a nearby cloverleaf. My other car may appeal more to some, it’s a 09 WRX. I had an 04 but the one because of bump in horsepower I wanted a new one and it’s just more civil (the 04 you felt every pebble) but the 04 wins for looks I think, but most have their preference.. It too has only had break line and Takata recalls. The reason I switched Japanese was because after I bought my first Japanese motorcycle rode it and changed the oil, and my second and road it over 70,000 miles and changed the oil. I didn’t know a vehicle existed that you could do routine service and change the oil and they just kept going. I wanted AWD and everyone that offered it had a large upsell in price and I would assume service would be the same. The reason I picked Subaru was because AWD was standard (the rest is hundreds of thousands miles later). The other brands I’ve owned I could tell you by mileage or year what was coming next. My 14 1/2 ton has had more recalls than all combined. I also keep hearing no one wants sedans but I sure see a lot Hyundai’s and Kia’s everytime I’m out?? Although I’ve never owned one they nice looking and people seem happy with them America used to be the car super power in it’s hay-day but Executives keep getting greedier and greedier and the employees and products suffer. I’ll admit the Fusion spy photo I saw looked great but for myself personally there is nothing Ford could do to get me back. When you think of the poor person buying a Fiesta, I think it’s because of the price not because they want one, then the manufacturer you trusted takes advantage of you and lies and hides there is a problem!! Meanwhile the dealership in on the scam and company lies to your face that there is nothing wrong except for probably blaming you for the way you drove it. I’d also be curious if these same people probably paid extra for automatic $1000?? I apologise for the length but this is why I’m a “cult” member. Wishing you many miles with few repairs regardless of what you choose to drive.
Multiple Vehicle Junky