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Why should Subaru get this time
an exceptional Tokyo motor show?

Subaru B5-TPH concept car

B5-TPH, for ‘Turbo Parallel Hybrid’, to be displayed at Tokyo.

APN,
6th October 2005.

It doesn't take exceptional powers to imagine the difference this 39th Tokyo motor show will make in Subaru's recent history.

From a Japanese brand fifth-owned by General Motors, Subaru, the automotive arm of Fuji Heavy Industries group, will pass to Toyota territory.

Two weeks before the opening of the 39th Tokyo motor show (Public days from 22 October to 6 November), Toyota agreed yesterday to buy 8.7% of Subaru from GM (for US$315 million), while GM announced that it will end its alliance with Subaru and sell its remaining 11.4 % stake.

General Motors, the world's biggest car manufacturer (bought its 20% stake in Subaru in 2000 for US$ 1.4 billion), is under pressure from many sides: declining sales, heavy liabilities in pensions and health care costs, other liabilities from a potential Delphi bankruptcy risk. Delphi, ranked No. 2 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers in 2004, was spun-off GM in 1999, but stayed heavily dependent on GM business, and its workers kept the same wages and benefits as GM's union workers (suppliers wages are normally lower than those paid by car manufacturers). Delphi and the UAW (United Auto Workers) want GM to take back up to 7,000 Delphi workers.

B5-TPH: its battery charges to 95 per cent of its capacity in five minutes.

That's what Subaru is leaving.

Toyota, the world's number two car manufacturer for the moment, and probably number one by end 2006 or 2007, looks certainly a more stable and "natural" ally for Subaru, and not simply because both are Japanese, as this element counts less and less in the modern global world. Toyota and other Asian and European groups build cars in North America just like GM and Ford own European and Asian brands. On top of that, most companies experience ups and downs at certain times of their history.

But instead of serving as one of GM brands, handing two models for use by another GM affiliate (the Subaru Impreza is the basis of Saab's 9-2X, but the new Subaru B9 Tribeca will not be the basis for a Saab 9-6X, as was planned before), and under constantly changing strategies, Subaru should get a more stable and specific role within the new group of brands which includes Toyota, Lexus (luxury specialist), Daihatsu (compact to minicar, Toyota owns 51% of Daihatsu) and Scion (new brand in the US for the youth market), plus truck maker Hino.

Most important, Subaru has its own distinguished technical identity: it is reputed for its all-wheel-drive technology (one of the first to offer it in regular cars, not just in SUVs) and horizontally-opposed-cylinder engines (known as well as boxer or flat engine), which are not just more sporty than the usual vertical-cylinder ones, but offer lower gravity centre and better stability.

That leads us now to Subaru's displays at the coming Tokyo auto show.

The Symmetrical all-wheel drive specialist will display a high-powered concept car which is also an environmentally-conscious hybrid.

Called the B5-TPH, for ‘Turbo Parallel Hybrid’, the three-door Subaru coupe combines a 260 PS 2.0 litre ‘boxer’ engine with an electric generator/motor fitted between the engine and transmission.

This provides a low-cost solution to giving lively acceleration and a high top speed but with reasonable fuel consumption and low exhaust emissions.

The four-cylinder horizontally-opposed petrol engine features a Miller Cycle system which improves engine efficiency by reducing pumping losses thanks to a combustion expansion stroke that is longer than the compression stroke.

Normally this system makes an engine sluggish at low speeds but thanks to the electric motor, standing-start torque is boosted beyond even an Impreza Turbo’s.

The electric motor itself produces 10 kW and 150 Nm torque while the petrol engine has a 191 kW output with 343 Nm torque.

A new type of manganese lithium ion battery charges to 95 per cent capacity in five minutes and operates not just in city driving but also when cruising.

The design of the Subaru B5-TPH itself features smooth contours and a large tailgate, hinged just behind the B-post.

Its ‘crossover’ theme combines the practicality of a hatchback, fun of a coupe and all-terrain ability of a SUV, complete with a 200 mm ground clearance.

Meanwhile, Subaru’s full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive and low-centre-of-gravity ‘boxer’ engine ensures agile handling.

But while the B5-TPH continues the theme of previous concept cars such as the B11S and B9 Scrambler, the concept is not meant to hint at any future Subaru models.

On the other hand, the latest changes in Subaru's shareholding do not need many hints to its new potential with Toyota.

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