Subaru execs share advantages of being a niche market player

Bigger isn't always better
by Paulo Rafael Subido | Dec 8, 2014

Industry execs share advantages of being a niche market player

A car manufacturer will always strive to be on top, but sometimes some brands fall into a very specialized category, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. From the point of view of a car enthusiast who is a fan of a certain type of vehicle, this is actually great.

During the development of the all-new Legacy and Outback, the folks at Fuji Heavy Industries actually interviewed the owners of previous-generation models. Feedback was vital, and the company actually listened. No wonder the Legacy and Outback badges have reached the 25th-anniversary milestone.

A chat with Fuji Heavy Industries senior project general manager Masayuki Uchida revealed much about the way of thinking at the company. "One secret to the Legacy's and Outback's success and longevity is that we listen to our customers," he shared. "We understand our technology and our originality, and what our customers need--and we found a matching point. That is why the Legacy and the Outback have been around for 25 years."

He added: "We are not mass-producers. Our market share is a small percentage. We are always targeting our customers. That is another secret of our success. We do not create cars that are good for everyone."

Glenn Tan, executive director of Tan Chong International, the group behind Motor Image, further emphasized that Subaru isn't going in the direction of other mainstream brands. "We are catering to a niche market," he shared. "That niche is widening as the consumer becomes more tech-savvy. As we go along, it is nice to see that the Philippine market is moving along that line. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time."

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Tan also revealed that the Philippine market is one of  the better-performing markets, and he doesn't see it as small. "It gives us a lot of confidence," he added.

On a side note, Subaru rally fans will be disappointed to find out that Motor Image will not be returning to the Asia Pacific Rally Championship anytime soon. "I wish I could say yes, we will do it again," lamented Tan. "It became a hobby of mine that became an exciting three-year exercise, but it is not something that I can push for right now. If you are a motorsports team, for marketing purposes you have to win. I would be doing a great disservice to the company if I spent my time on rallies again. But I wish I did, because at the end of the day, I enjoy driving, too. The rally team came about because I was so passionate about it."

Maybe if Subaru fans clamored enough, Tan might change his mind. The company listens to its customers, after all.

Photos by Paulo Rafael Subido

Industry execs share advantages of being a niche market player

Industry execs share advantages of being a niche market player

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