Subaru has built a reputation as a reliable car whose models regularly make the top 10 lists for safety. Its advertising promises you’ll be able to protect the ones you love by driving a Subaru. The Subaru logo is distinctive for its star pattern. How do those stars symbolize the company?
Start of Subaru
Subaru began as a division of Fuji Heavy Industry, a Japanese company that made aircraft, motor coaches and gas-powered scooters. In 1953, the company decided to branch into passenger vehicles. Its initial car was the P-1, a compact car that failed to gain traction.
In 1958, the company released the 360. This was a class of car known as a Japanese kei car, which was a type of tiny, one-person car. It was a micro car with a 360cc engine sold only in Japan. Subaru manufactured the 360 until 1971.
Subaru’s Early Imports
In 1968, Subaru began selling the 360 in the U.S. At the time, Nissan and Datsun both had healthy sales among American buyers. Advertising for the little car stressed its affordability. One ad declared, “Cheap and Ugly Does It!” The 360 was priced lower than its closest competitor, the Volkswagen Beetle, but its small size made it hard to market.
The FF-4 followed in 1970. This subcompact car was closer in size to its competitors. It was a tiny coupe with a boxer engine and front-wheel drive. Cars with front-wheel drive were new to American drivers. The tiny FF-4 was withdrawn after low sales.
A few years later, the U.S. was in the middle of a major gas crisis. Subaru’s small cars received a warmer welcome now. Its little cars got great gas mileage, and their low price made them an attractive option.
Slogans and Advertising
In 1973, Subaru launched the DL and the GL line of coupes and sedans. Although still subcompact cars, these were slightly larger than the company’s initial models. They were also accompanied by better advertising than Subaru’s previous offerings. These cars used the same front-wheel drive manufacturing that made them easy to maneuver on tight hills.
Subaru’s print ads described the cars as, “Inexpensive. And built to stay that way.”
Subaru’s advertising through the 1970s and 80s emphasized the cars’ reliability and low cost. In 1983, ads stressed the fact that Subaru cars came with optional four-wheel drive.
Arrival of the Outback
The company stumbled with its next few outings, however, and never hit its stride again until it released the Outback station wagon in 1995. With Crocodile Dundee as a pitchman, the sturdy wagon became the automaker’s biggest seller. It remains the company’s signature model.
The Forester followed a few years later. This cross between a station wagon and an SUV is the company’s most popular model after the Outback. Subaru released the Impreza, the Tribeca and other models, but only the Impreza gained traction among buyers.
Memorable Marketing Campaigns
Subaru has had some noteworthy marketing campaigns. Its famous slogans include:
- We built our reputation by building a better car.
- The beauty of all-wheel drive.
- Driven by what’s inside.
- Think, feel, drive.
- Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.
Embracing LGBTQ Communities
In the 1990s, focus group research revealed that the company’s all-wheel drives, especially the Outback, were extremely popular with lesbian customers.
Rather than ignore this small segment of the car market, the company decided to embrace it. Subaru hired Martina Navratilova as a spokesperson. The tennis star was one of the first famous athletes to come out as gay. The move was highly courageous for its time.
Another ad featured Xena the Warrior Princess, the TV character played by Lucy Lawless who is a feminist and lesbian icon. The company began using slogans and terms that were “inside jokes” in the gay community. Later marketing research found this approach was very successful for Subaru.
Meaning of the Subaru Logo
The official Subaru logo is a pattern of six silver stars against a dark blue sky. In some later versions, the stars are gold. What is the source of this symbol?
In astronomy, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters is a constellation in the night sky. It is one of the closest star clusters to Earth. The Seven Sisters are the easiest stars to see with the naked eye.
These stars have long had strong mythical meanings in many cultures and traditions. Native American legends, Hindu legends, Greek mythology and aboriginal legends all feature stories about the Seven Sisters.
Related: Our guide to trademarking a logo.
Selecting the Stars
Kenji Kita, the CEO of Fuji Heavy Industries, selected the star cluster as the symbol of the company’s new division.
There were four reasons for this. One, Fuji was primarily known as a manufacturer of aircraft, and the starry sky is a link to that history. Two, the Japanese word for the Pleiades sounds like the word Subaru.
Three, the cluster represents six visible stars and one invisible star in varying sizes. The largest star represents Fuji Heavy Industries, and the smaller stars represent the company’s divisions. Four, the word Subaru sounds like the word for Pleiades, but it also sounds like the Japanese word for “unity.”
The color choices are also highly symbolic. The stars in Pleiades are what astronomers call “hot blue stars.” Blue stars appear that color because they are larger than other stars. They are sometimes called ”blue super giants.” The blue background could refer to the stars or to the sky traveled by Fuji’s airplanes.
Subaru has experimented with different color combinations. Today, the logo has a blue background and golden stars.
Subaru has successfully built an image as the car for drivers who value ruggedness and safety. The Outback and Forester are Subaru’s best-selling models, leading the company’s 4% of total U.S. automobile sales. That may not be a huge share, but it is enough to make the company highly profitable. Subaru buyers are intensely loyal and unlikely to change their car brand of choice.