Subaru may have found a fan base in the United States; however, it debuted with critical failure. The first Subaru sold on U.S. soil may be one of the worst cars ever made. Consumer Reports gave the 360 one of the worst reviews in the organization’s history.
Subaru’s rocky introduction to the U.S. market
The Subaru 360 was the first Subaru ever sold in America. The model had been popular in Japan. Malcolm Bricklin imported the lightweight car in 1969. Because the car was so light, it was exempt from U.S. automotive safety standards. This made importing the 360 from Japan very inexpensive.
Consumers immediately balked at the car’s unappealing exterior. Meanwhile, Subaru marketed the 360 as a budget-friendly option for buyers unconcerned with appearances.
Subaru gave its U.S. debut a tongue-in-cheek slogan: “Cheap and ugly does it!” U.S. buyers swiftly rejected the 360 despite the tiny price tag.
Safety issues contributed to the 360’s failure
A light frame that kept import fees low contributed to this Subaru’s failure. Consumer Reports deemed the 360 structurally insufficient. They found the bumpers to be practically useless during testing. Weak manufacturing would show up in other safety features as well.
Consumer Reports found that the 360’s lap belts would loosen over time. The 360’s front seats frequently slid forward with no warning. Both of these issues made this Subaru incredibly dangerous to drive. The defroster was insufficient to give drivers adequate visibility. In short, the Subaru 360 was a massive liability.
The Subaru 360 remains one of the lowest-rated cars by Consumer Reports
In April of 1969, Consumer Reports called the Subaru 360 “the most dangerous car in America” and “unacceptable.” The report documents several major design flaws.
For example, the 360’s headlights sat at the same height as many American bumpers. At this height, headlights are vulnerable to crushing in minor accidents.
In addition, the interior received poor reviews due to cramped passenger accommodations. Consumer Reports summed up their assessment by calling for stricter regulation of the import.
Is the ocean full of crushed 360s?
The 360 met with such a negative reception that it became a part of automotive history. The infamously ugly Subaru is the subject of some persistent urban legends.
Firstly, the rumor spread that Subaru issued an order to crush all unsold 360s. Secondly, rumors that Subaru dumped thousands of 360s into the ocean spread. Particularly tall tales claim both. Many maintain that there is a Subaru 360 graveyard on the ocean floor. It has yet to be located.
Subaru’s success following the 360
Despite its U.S. debut’s failure, Subaru is now one of the country’s most beloved brands. Moreover, in September of 2020, Subaru smashed previous sales records. According to Subaru’s website, September saw 60,103 units sold.
Subaru’s rise to popularity in the U.S. is a journey 50 years in the making. Reliability and longevity now define the brand. In conclusion, the Japanese automaker has come a long way from its infamous flop.