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Subaru wants luxury image of BMW, Audi

Frankfurt/Main. Kyoji Takenaka, president and CEO of Fuji Heavy Industries, wants to deal with its Subaru divisionís lingering image problem by rebuilding the carmaker's brand.

He is introducing new models and is adopting an overall brand-strengthening strategy for the carmaker.

"In the long term I hope to turn Subaru into a highly-regarded quality and performance brand, on a par with Audi and BMW," Takenaka said.

FHI began strengthening Subaruís image in 2001 under a five-year program called "Fuji Dynamic Revolution 1".

The European market is already picking up for Subaru. In 2002 it sold 38,000 vehicles and the parent company expects to sell 45,000 units this year.

In the long-term Takenakaís sales goal is 100,000 units Ė half the number of cars it expects to sell in the USA this year.

Industry experts doubt that this sales target is feasible in Europe without offering diesel engines. Subaru has developed prototype diesel-boxer engines with both four and six cylinders.

However, series production "is not possible from an economic point of view," Takenaka said at the IAA in Frankfurt.

A hybrid solution, a mix between a gasoline and an electric motor, is currently under development, which is much more interesting, Takenaka said.

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