One year after product-sharing with Saab caused a stir, Subaru dealers have a new focus: themselves.
At last year's make meeting, dealers learned that Saab dealers would get a version of Subaru's Impreza WRX wagon. The Saab 9-2X will debut this summer.
This time around, sharing with GM was not an issue.
"Frankly, there's a different mood," said Dale Walker, a Washington state Subaru dealer and former chairman of the Subaru national dealer council. "Now the company just wants to set the stage for our new product. The attitude now is that the future is quite strong."
Subaru told dealers that it is preparing to launch a redesigned Legacy in May. A new advertising campaign will highlight the performance side of the brand. Subaru said more turbocharged products are on the way.
"We want to continue to go after a younger buyer, and that means more and more turbocharged vehicles are coming," Walker said.
Throw in plans for a seven-seat vehicle that arrives in 15 months and a redesigned Outback after the Legacy launch, and last year seems like a long time ago.
"We're asking to be considered as a brand with many dimensions, especially with a multipassenger vehicle," Walker said.
That kind of message has dealers in a better state of mind. Performance-based vehicles have brought in new customers, said Kirk Schneider, Subaru's new dealer council chairman and a dealer in Salt Lake City.
Last year Subaru sold 186,819 cars in the United States, up 3.8 percent over 2002.
"We feel things are going the way they are supposed to go," Schneider said.
Rick Crossman, Subaru's marketing boss, said the company will try to make its outgoing Legacy and Outback models more attractive to consumers with cut-rate financing. But Subaru will continue to de-emphasize huge incentives.
"We think our products, especially with what's coming, can stand on their own," Crossman said.
As for sharing with GM in the near future? Said one dealer: "It didn't even come up this time."