WINTHROP, Wash. - When the Subaru Forester goes on sale in early July, its mission will be to catch people who are escaping from Subaru showrooms.
The Forester joins the Outback in Subaru of America Inc.'s lineup of all-wheel-drive station wa-gon/sport-utility hybrids.
Subaru asked the escapees - Outback shoppers who bought a sport-utility instead - why they walked out of the showroom. The answer: The Outback is too wagonlike. Subaru hopes the Forester's styling will be more to the liking of those consumers.
East Coast dealers will get the Forester first, around July 4, said Tim Mahoney, director of marketing, at a press event here last week.
The target customers are married people about 40 years old with small children and household incomes of $60,000, Mahoney said at the Forester press introduction in the Cascade Mountains. Subaru expects 60 percent of Forester buyers to be women.
The company expects to sell 2,000 to 3,000 Foresters a month. The base model will be priced under $20,000 - well below the Outback, which lists for $22,990 to $25,715.
The Forester's main competitor, the Honda CR-V, starts at $19,695.
Forester advertising will start in mid-August after Subaru's national dealer meeting in Keystone, Colo. The vehicle will be billed as 'sport-utility tough, car easy.'
Mahoney said Subaru will stress attributes that set the Forester apart from traditional sport-utilities: better ride and handling, ease of entry and exit, ease of loading and softer styling.
He said Subaru's product direction is evolving into two categories:
1. Hybrid vehicles that combine many of the features of a sport-utility with the benefits of a passenger car. In this category are the Outback, Outback Sport and Forester.
2. Performance vehicles that deliver fun, control and safety. Included in this category is the Impreza 2.5 RS, which debuted at the New York auto show in March.
The Impreza will go on sale in July. Each dealer will get a single copy of the vehicle, which Subaru considers a specialty product. The price has not been announced.
Target customers for the 165-hp Impreza 2.5 RS are 25- to 49-year-old males with incomes of $55,000.