Subaru. A word synonymous with unique Boxer engines and advanced four-wheel-drive systems.
Sure, not everyone is a Subaru fan. The brand tends to appeal to a small group of dedicated fans. But that’s not without reason.
Subaru has one of the world’s most prestigious World Rally Championship records. The Imprezas of the 2000s were the stuff of dreams. Owning one was the closest thing a road-going civilian could get to the raw power, grip, and control of a rally car.
But where are Subarus made? Are they built in Japan and shipped over or constructed directly in the States?
Here’s everything you need to know.
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Where Is Subaru From?
Subaru is a Japanese automotive brand. It’s part of the broader conglomerate Subaru Corporation, which has stakes in many other industries.
Subaru was officially set up in July 1953. However, it can trace its roots back to Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), founded in 1915. It started out as an aircraft research and development company.
The brand was first brought to America in 1968 and was an instant hit.
Today, it’s still based in Ebisu, Shibuya. Toyota has a 20% stake in the company and is thus the largest shareholder. As a result, Subaru has access to Toyota’s vast resource networks.
Although you’ll be familiar with seeing Subarus all over the world, production output is relatively small. Subaru produces around 1,000,000 cars per year (give or take). Like most manufacturers, Covid hit the company hard. In comparison, Toyota tends to shift about 10,000,000, and Kia about 3,000,000.
What Does The Subaru Name Mean?
The Subaru name is the Japanese word for the Pleiades cluster of stars. This constellation is often referred to as The Seven Sisters.
Pleiades was the name for the seven daughters of Atlas, a god in Greek mythology. His job was to hold the sky up so he couldn’t protect them.
To save them from Orion (the Hunter – a nearby constellation), Zeus transformed the girls into stars. One, however, fell in love with a mortal and hid. That’s why there are only six visible stars in the sky.
This story – or variations of it – exists throughout the world, in various cultures that wouldn’t have had contact before recent centuries.
Take another look at the Subaru logo. It’s made up of six stars. Compare it to the Pleiades constellation (remembering that’s what “Subaru” means in Japanese).
What a lightbulb moment!
Where Are Subarus Built?
So, are Subarus constructed in Japan? Or somewhere else?
Well, the answer’s very simple.
There are two Subaru production plants in the world. These are the Yujima Plant in Japan (Gunma) and the United States (Lafayette, Indiana).
Most Subarus are still made in Japan (about 60%). They’re constructed in the Yujima Plant in Ota, one of four factories owned by Subaru.
The only exception is the Subaru-chō factory. This produces the Subaru BRZ (aka Toyota 86). This car was developed as a joint project combining Toyota’s and Subaru’s resources. As such, it’s made separately.
Although most Subarus are still made in Japan, the Japanese market only accounts for 10% to 15% of sales (on average). The rest are exported to countries around the world.
The Japanese factories and suppliers send parts and vehicle components to the Lafayette Plant in America. Although the US plant is quickly expanding, Subaru’s heart remains in Japan.
The American branch is run by a separate Subaru Corporation subsidy, SOA: Subaru of America.
The plant was initially run as a joint venture with Isuzu. It was named Subaru-Isuzu Automotive, or SIA. After Isuzu sales plummeted, Subaru bought them out (for $1). To reflect the new ownership, they renamed it Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (still SIA).
The Lafayette plant has recently expanded, helping to meet the growing demand from the American market. Subaru expected it to produce 410,000 vehicles in the 2020/21 financial year.
The American factory produces a significant number of vehicles. However, most Subarus are still made in Japan. The Lafayette plant is quickly catching up, though. It builds somewhere around 40% of all Subarus worldwide.
The American factory recently celebrated its 4,000,000th Subaru vehicle rolling off the line.
If you live in the area and fancy a guided tour, you can book one on most Mondays or Wednesdays.
Subaru’s Export Market
The American market is Subaru’s hottest by far. It accounts for about two-thirds of all Subaru sales at the moment.
Before the Covid pandemics hit, Americans bought around 700,000 Subarus per year. Sales figures slumped to 580,000 in 2021, but they’re expected to bounce back.
In other words, Americans like Subarus more than anywhere else.
Subaru also sells around 55,000 cars annually to Canada, 40,000 to Australia, and 30,000 to Europe. China is emerging as a rising market, while Russia’s sales have remained steady until the Ukraine War. The rest are sold to other countries throughout the world.
Where Is Your Subaru Built?
You can check where your Subaru was built using the VIN.
You’ll usually find your car’s VIN at the base of the windshield or in the passenger door frame.
If the first character is “J”, your car was made in Japan. If it starts with a “4”, it was constructed in the States.
Also, check the eleventh character. If this is a number, it represents an American factory. A letter typically means it’s Japanese. This character also represents the transmission type.
If you’re from the States, your Subaru was probably made in America. However, its core and its soul live in Japan. Don’t forget!