The History and Origin of Subaru: From Aircraft to Automobiles

Subaru is a brand that has established itself as a household name in the automobile industry. With its infamous all-wheel-drive system and distinct boxer engine, Subaru has gained a loyal following of car enthusiasts and everyday drivers alike. However, the origins of Subaru are rooted in a lesser-known history and reveal how the brand’s success is the result of years of innovation and evolution.

Key Takeaways

  • Subaru’s history began in 1917 as an aircraft research and development company known as Nakajima Aircraft Company.
  • The Nakajima Aircraft Company was responsible for producing the A-1 fighter aircraft, which was used in World War II by the Imperial Japanese Army.
  • In 1953, five Japanese companies came together and formed Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd., which would eventually become the parent company of Subaru.
  • The name "Subaru" comes from the Japanese word for the Pleiades star cluster, which is also represented in the brand’s logo.
  • Subaru gained popularity in America in the 1970s and 1980s with the launch of the Subaru Leone and the introduction of the all-wheel-drive system.
  • Today, Subaru is known for its commitment to safety, reliability, and environmental consciousness, as well as its distinctive boxer engine and all-wheel-drive system.
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From Aircraft to Automobiles: The Origins of Subaru

The history of Subaru began in 1917 in Ota, Japan, as an aircraft research and development company known as Nakajima Aircraft Company. Nakajima Aircraft Company was responsible for producing several fighter planes, including the A-1, which was used by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

Following World War II, Nakajima Aircraft Company transitioned to producing civilian products such as scooters and generators. However, the company’s interest in developing advanced technology did not waver, and in 1953, five Japanese companies came together to form Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. (FHI).

FHI’s initial focus was to produce transportation vehicles, such as buses and trucks. In 1958, the company released its first passenger car, the Subaru 360. The 360 was a compact car that featured a 356cc air-cooled engine and could reach a top speed of 55mph.

The name "Subaru" was chosen for the new brand, inspired by the Pleiades star cluster, which is also known as the "Seven Sisters" in Greek mythology. The stars in the cluster are represented in the brand’s logo, which features six stars. The seventh star, which is not visible to the naked eye, is said to symbolize where Subaru comes from.

Subaru’s Evolution in the American Market

Subaru’s popularity in the American market can be attributed to its success in the 1970s and 1980s with the launch of the Subaru Leone, a compact car with four-wheel-drive capabilities. In 1975, Subaru introduced the 4WD wagon, which quickly became a hit with American consumers who prized functionality and reliability.

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Throughout the 1980s, Subaru continued to innovate and introduce new models, including the XT Coupe, which featured a sleek design and advanced features such as a digital instrument panel. However, it was the introduction of the company’s all-wheel-drive system in the late 1980s that truly set Subaru apart from the competition.

Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system, which is standard on all of the brand’s models, uses a combination of electronically controlled clutch packs and differentials to distribute power evenly to each wheel. This system provides superior handling and stability in all types of driving conditions, especially rough terrain and inclement weather.

Subaru’s Modern Reputation: Safety, Reliability, and Environmental Awareness

Today, Subaru is known for its commitment to safety, reliability, and environmental consciousness. The brand has consistently received high ratings from organizations such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, Subaru has received more IIHS Top Safety Pick awards than any other brand.

Subaru’s dedication to reliability is evident in its warranty program, which offers a 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. In addition, the brand has been recognized for its environmental consciousness, receiving a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index and becoming the first auto manufacturer to earn zero-landfill status.

Another aspect of Subaru’s identity is its distinctive boxer engine. The boxer engine, which is named after the motion of the piston cylinders resembling a boxer’s fist, allows for a lower center of gravity and improved handling. The engine is available in various configurations, including a turbocharged version that produces 310 horsepower.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does the name Subaru mean?

The name "Subaru" comes from the Japanese word for the Pleiades star cluster, which is also represented in the brand’s logo.

Why is Subaru popular in the United States?

Subaru gained popularity in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s with the launch of the Subaru Leone and the introduction of the all-wheel-drive system. American consumers prized the brand’s functionality and reliability, and Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system provided superior handling and stability in all types of driving conditions.

What is Subaru’s warranty program?

Subaru’s warranty program offers a 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

What is a boxer engine?

A boxer engine is an engine configuration in which the cylinders are horizontally opposed, resembling a boxer’s fist. This design allows for a lower center of gravity and improved handling.

Conclusion

The history of Subaru can be traced back to the early 20th century and the development of aircraft technology. Today, the brand is recognized for its commitment to safety, reliability, and environmental consciousness, as well as its distinctive boxer engine and all-wheel-drive system. From its early days as an aircraft research company to its current success as an automobile manufacturer, Subaru continues to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible.

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Billy Covington

With a passion for all things automotive, Billy is our go-to expert on Subaru performance upgrades and modifications. He's been featured in several car magazines and blogs, and his extensive knowledge and expertise make him a valuable member of our team. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys playing guitar and writing music.

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