Subaru has an intensely loyal following, but it doesn’t move anywhere near the volume of new vehicles that its Japanese rivals do. The shift to electric vehicles brings a whole new set of challenges, all of which the automaker will need to navigate without the benefit of unlimited funds. To “survive the age of electrification,” as its incoming CEO put it, Subaru is changing its executive bench and focusing its efforts on using its small size as a competitive advantage.
The automaker announced Atsushi Osaki as CEO and said Subaru America CEO Tom Doll would step aside. Jeff Walters, the company’s current senior vice president of sales, will take over as president and COO. The automaker’s moves signal its renewed focus on EV development and on the U.S., its most successful market.
Interestingly, the management shuffle is similar to the one Subaru’s partner Toyota announced earlier this year. Outgoing Subaru CEO Tomomi Nakamura took a similar view on EVs to Toyota’s outgoing CEO, Akio Toyoda. Osaki struck a different tone in his first remarks, saying that Subaru is looking ahead to determine the best ways to respond and adapt to the changes electrification brings to the market.
Speaking at a press conference last week, Osaki said, “we at Subaru want to survive the age of electrification by being nimble. We will put various systems in place while focusing on flexibility and expansion.” The automaker currently has one EV on sale, which it co-developed with Toyota, but has recently said that it plans to offer several new models by 2025.
Subaru sees potential in Australia, Canada, and other parts of Asia but has struggled to meet demand due to chip shortages. Osaki noted that EV growth is unpredictable and said that flexibility and quickly responding to changes in the market would be essential to overcoming those challenges.