Subaru will begin marketing its Impreza WRX and STI performance models separately from the conventional Impreza when the car is redesigned next month.
The "Impreza" name will be dropped for the derivatives, and they will get their own platforms when they are redesigned in 2013.
The new strategy allows Subaru to focus on the redesigned Impreza's improved fuel economy and added interior space -- important considerations in the compact car segment, said Bill Cyphers, senior vice president of sales for Subaru of America.
The 2012 Impreza goes on sale in November as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. It is priced the same as the current model but with a new engine and a roomier, improved interior. The launch was delayed about two months because of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The WRX and STI variants will continue on the current Impreza platform until the 2013 redesign. The two sporty versions account for 10 to 15 percent of Impreza sales.
Cyphers said the change will allow Subaru to market the WRX and STI more easily as performance cars and to give them interiors and features more appropriate for models that start at about $8,000 more than the Impreza. Cyphers would not give engine or performance details for the 2013 models, but he said the STI will continue to have an engine with 300-plus horsepower.
Subaru says the redesigned 2012 Impreza will get 36 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg combined, compared with 27 mpg highway/24 mpg combined for the outgoing models.
Other improvements include a new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine with 148 hp and a new continuously variable transmission. Rear legroom has increased by two inches, thanks to new packaging and a one-inch increase in the wheelbase.
Subaru has kept the same prices on the Impreza, which competes with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Volkswagen Jetta. The base sedan starts at $18,245; and the five-door, at $18,745. The prices include shipping.
U.S. sales of the Impreza, including the WRX and STI derivatives, peaked at 49,098 units in 2008. Last year Subaru sold 44,395 Imprezas. Cyphers predicted that the redesigned version will surpass that level in 2012, even without the WRX and STI.
Subaru will add an Impreza-based crossover next fall that in other markets will be called the XV. Subaru is considering another name for the United States, Cyphers said. The crossover will be positioned below the Forester and Outback crossovers.