The original Subaru Outback ultimately changed the landscape of the auto business. That first Outback was just a Legacy wagon with a lift and some body cladding, but it ultimately resulted in a whole new class of vehicle.
The irony here is that Subaru is the only automaker to see major commercial success with the sedan-like crossover. Others have tried, but so far the Outback is the only car of its kind to routinely sell in large volumes year after year, and it has evolved today into one of the best all-wheel-drive family wagons/crossovers that money can buy.
It’s a lucrative market but no one else has succeeded with an Outback-like wagon because no one else can do it like Subaru.
The Honda Crosstour showed serious promise but couldn’t manage to squeeze market share away from Subaru, even after trying to do so for five years.
There are other small SUVS and crossovers on the market that call themselves competitors to the Outback, but they are really just alternatives. Without the Venza and Crosstour, Subaru is left completely unchallenged.
That means there’s room for another automaker to step up to the plate and attempt to out-Outback the Outback.
Mazda showed a sporty crossover concept called the Koeru at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. At the time there was speculation that we were looking at the future CX-5 or CX-9, but CEO Masamichi Kogai recently told Automotive News,
It’s a totally new car. It’s a lower, sporty SUV. It’s close to a wagon.
He then said the car, if it reaches production, would compete in the same genre as the Outback but offer more driving pleasure.
Mazda will do its due diligence and get feedback from consumers and dealers, but if it decides to move forward it will take on the Outback on Subaru’s turf. That’s a formidable proposition because no challenger has ever won there.
Through November of this year, the Subaru Outback has sold more copies than the Mazda CX-3, CX-5, and CX-9 combined.
Could a sporty new Mazda wagon can compete with the Subaru Outback?