TOKYO -- Subaru is developing a new seven-seat vehicle to replace the outgoing Tribeca, but U.S. dealers will have to wait for a while after the Tribeca is killed off next year.
Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, president of Subaru-brand parent Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., confirmed the plans in an interview today.
U.S. dealers have been clamoring for an updated seven-seater, he said, and Subaru engineers are now working on it.
"I've received very strong requests from U.S. dealers for a multipassenger, seven-seat vehicle," Yoshinaga said. "And we are planning to introduce it to the U.S. market."
He declined to give a timeline for introducing the vehicle.
But he it won't be ready for a seamless introduction when Subaru stops making the aging Tribeca SUV early next year.
And Subaru isn't planning any all-new vehicles for the U.S. lineup next year or the year after, though updates and redesigns of current nameplates are on tap, Yoshinaga said.
"The seven-passenger vehicle project is completely different," he said of the new vehicle. "You won't see the new vehicle coming out immediately when Tribeca production ends."
He said that the new vehicle's output isn't accounted for in company's standing blueprint to expand U.S. production capacity to 300,000 units a year by the end of 2016.
The Tribeca is currently made at Subaru's Lafayette, Ind., assembly plant. Subaru will increase capacity as the factory to 300,000 units, from 170,000 units today. The Impreza small car will be added to the localized output of the Legacy and Outback.
The new vehicle would fill a hole in the lineup for a big people mover. The seven-seat Tribeca went on sale in 2005, but it has been a slow seller critiqued for a cramped rear seat.
Subaru sold only 1,348 Tribecas in the first 10 months of the year, making the vehicle its worst seller by far.
The new seven-seat vehicle could be based on the Subaru Exiga, a Japanese-market van-wagon crossbreed that also seats seven. It has wagonlike proportions with swing-out doors, but also gets a tall, top-heavy greenhouse and a slightly elevated third row.