Impreza price impresses

By all rights, the incoming Impreza Sport should conceivably cost more than its processor. And yet …


FAVOURABLE currency conditions and a hard-nosed argument about the need for pin-sharp pricing here has resulted in an unlikely win for Subaru’s national distributor.

When it showed off the new Impreza to media in December, Subaru New Zealand said it was still in negotiation in respect to the sticker price for a model it intends to have in the showroom a fortnight from now.

When asked then what chance there was of the outgoing car’s $29,990 sticker being carried over, the responses were at best only vaguely optimistic.

For those of experiencing the 2017 car, the reason why a price hike was on the cards was all too patent – the previous Impreza was what those in the game tend to call an ‘honest’ offer. Provisioning the marque’s all-paw ability for less than $30k seemed at the cost of everything else.

The new 2.0-litre Sport was the complete opposite: Far more kit, including the latest, third generation of the impressive stereo camera EyeSight – primarily a collision avoidance system, allowing autonomous braking, but smart enough to also sustain adaptive cruise - a premium fit and finish, hugely improved styling, a far more polished driving experience, a much better 115kW/196Nm 2.0-litre engine (being a derivative of the BRZ/86 direct-injection mill). It surely had to cost more. The only question was how much more?

The answer’s now in. Zero.

“The stable NZ economy and foreign exchange have obviously helped,” says Subaru NZ managing director Wallis Dumper about the car being the same money as its predecessor.

So, apparently, has some hard talking.

“We have been in robust discussion with Fuji Heavy Industries Japan about the RRP... it could easily have been a lot more.”

I suspect those talks began on the day of our drive, because Takeshi Tachimori was in town. As a Corporate Executive Vice President and Fuji Heavy Industries director, and a former boss of Subaru in North America, he is the highest-ranked Subaru boss to come here.

Anyway, it’s a price that conceivably leaves this car in a good position to go gangbusters.

After all, you pay the same for a base Corolla. You pay $2000 more for an entry Mazda3. And neither of those cars have the content meted the Subaru – not least anything like EyeSight - nor, of course, it’s four-wheel-drive.

The sharp pricing suggests the Impreza should be meted a lot more interest than its predecessor, which since 2013 through the end of 2016 has achieved no more than 208 units per year (and as few as 142) – volumes that make it one of the class minnows.

However, the sting for Subaru NZ is that, no matter how high the interest level, the car is running up against a sales wall as, at the moment, it is reportedly only guaranteed 300 units for 2017.

The hope is that it can beg more from another market – to achieve specification compatibility, that’s got to be Australia, since both countries have gone for a common specification (though our neighbour has a whole family of models, and two bodyshapes, whereas NZ has once again chosen a hatch at one trim level).

Limited volume isn’t the only challenge. Those rivals have proven ability to massage their pricing to meet any threat. Far more so than Subaru NZ, according to its boss.

Says Dumper: “The reality is that we are on limited production and this market segment is volatile.

“Competitors constantly move to discount positions with two-wheel drive or small-engine models as they strive for volume. Getting an apples-with-apples comparison is really tricky in this segment."