Competition between Subaru and Isuzu was a nonissue because Subaru built cars and Isuzu made trucks.
But when Subaru introduced the Outback, a rugged, taller version of the Legacy wagon, the brand was suddenly tiptoeing into SUV territory. The Outback's intended segment was the same as Isuzu's Rodeo SUV.
"All of a sudden we had vehicles somewhat competing against each other in the same plant," Easterday told Automotive News.
At one point, Subaru ran an ad claiming that the Outback had more interior space than the Rodeo. Later, Subaru changed the comparison to the Honda Passport. That helped only slightly because the Passport also was being built by Isuzu at the Indiana plant as a rebadged Rodeo.
The venture ended in January 2003 when Fuji Heavy bought Isuzu's interest in the plant for $1.
The last Isuzu was built there in July 2004, leaving Subaru to pick up the rest of the plant's slack. For some time, a portion of the plant that Isuzu had used sat idle.
"That was a challenge," Easterday recalled. "We had not anticipated for Subaru to be all of production."
But as Outback sales strengthened, combined with additional nameplates such as the Baja and Tribeca, the plant bounced back.
In 2005, Toyota Motor Corp. became a major Fuji Heavy investor and by 2007, the first project between the two companies began: Toyota Camry production at the Indiana plant.
In 2007, at the U.S. launch of the Camry, Ikuo Mori, then CEO of Fuji Heavy, praised Toyota as a factory mate.
"The speed with which Toyota makes decisions is impressive," he said. "And in the area of logistics, production management and control, they have no equal.
"There are many opportunities for Subaru here. We no longer have to study them from a case file or book. We can do it on the plant floor right by their side."