TOKYO — Subaru's first full- electric crossover points to a greener future for an all-wheel-drive brand long seen as an electrification laggard.
But executives aren't particularly bullish about the sales prospects of doing that in their biggest market, the United States.
"The U.S. market is really tough," Subaru CEO Tomomi Nakamura said at a technology briefing here last week where he announced big, new targets for electrifying the automaker. "I think that the market for electrified vehicles will take some more time to form in the U.S. Only Tesla's EVs are selling well."
Subaru will attempt to derive at least 40 percent of its global sales from full electrics or hybrid vehicles by 2030, with its entire lineup being electrified in the first half of the 2030s, the company said.
But electrification adds cost, and Americans don't see the value in added fuel economy, Nakamura said.
Subaru provided a glimpse of its direction last week, showing a full-size mock-up of its first full-electric vehicle that is set to arrive in the early 2020s. The low-slung crossover design brought a touch of edginess to the sometimes boxy brand.
Subaru is playing catch-up in an arena where competitors are moving rapidly into electrification.
The only hybrid Subaru offers in the U.S. — the plug-in Crosstrek crossover — has tepid sales, and American dealers don't seem enthusiastic about the technology, Nakamura acknowledged.
"They ask us when we will introduce hybrids. But when we ask them how much they can sell, they don't give us a clear-cut answer," the CEO said. "So we will continue to watch such a situation on the ground. If we are to introduce hybrids, we would like to sell them properly."
Subaru said it will have to go electric in the United States to meet such regulations as California zero-emissions rules. But true consumer-driven demand is evident only in Japan and other markets.