How Subaru Used Motorsport To Boost Sales

Fifteen years ago, chances are that no one in the UK would have heard of the Japanese car manufacturer, Subaru. Those that were aware of these Asian autos saw them mainly as farming vehicles, purveyors of estate cars that farmers would use to transport their fence posts and sheep dogs from A to B when the trusty Land Rover was to big for the narrow country lanes, they were a less attractive option than van contract hire. Of course now the Subaru name is well know in Britain, and has even earned the affection moniker, ‘Scooby’, mainly for its iconic now Impreza model, a popular choice for customers looking into car leasing. What is intriguing is how Subaru gathered followers through a successful spell in top level motorsport, and interstingly, a video game.

The young Scottish really driver Colin McRae won his first world championship in a Subaru in 1995, the plucky young scot was a man of little words that let his driving style do the talking, and what style he had! The legendary McRae’s driving style could only be defined as mad, he danced his car over mud, sand, tarmac and snow with bravado and vigour, always rapid, sometimes to the point of endangering his life, only to continue as if nothing had happened.

As McRae became a minor celebrity, towing the success of the World Rally Championship behind him, the computer games developer Codemasters enlisted his help for a new Playstation rally game in which McRae and his trusty Impreza were the stars. The game was heralded amongst the press for its ultra-realistic handling and beautiful graphics and sold in it’s hundreds of thousands. In a direct relation to the success of the video game, Subaru saw the buzz around the Impreza grow with sales of the devastatingly quick P1 version particularly impressive.

Throughout the 2000’s the Subaru Impreza in its various guises became the boy racers ultimate dream. The 4WD beast became available to buy in metallic blue with gold rims, echoing the colour scheme of the famous rally car. Today Subaru faces stiff competition from the Mitsubishi Evo X which is widely thought of as the better car and sells well through contract hire firms. But through the World Rally Championship, Colin McRae himself and that hugely successful game, Subaru has been able to solidfiy a niche in the UK car market landscape with a big selection of models from small hatchbacks to SUVs. Subaru is living proof that a strong motorsport heritage can translate into healthy sales figures!