Subaru just unveiled its first fully electric vehicle: the 2023 Subaru Solterra. This five-seat crossover Solterra SUV is a bit longer than a Forester. Subaru will offer the EV in either an AWD configuration or as a FWD with an estimated 300+ miles of range. But is the newest Subaru really a Subaru? The Solterra will actually be built by Toyota.
|FWD Subaru Solterra||AWD Subaru Solterra|
|Drivetrain||Single motor: front axle only||Dual motor: front axle and rear axle|
|Battery||71.4 kWh Lithium-ion battery||71.4 kWh Lithium-ion battery|
|Weight||4,250 pounds||4,450 pounds|
|Range||330 miles||285 miles|
|Options||Sunroof||Sunroof, 20-inch rims|
Subaru would have struggled to design and build an EV on its own
Subaru has been offering plug-in hybrids since its recent Crosstrek hybrid upgrade. Subaru fans love the 90 MPG car with its 17 miles of fully electric range. So the Subaru company set its sights on a fully-electric (also called battery electric) vehicle.
Building an all-new vehicle is costly. Building an all-new electric vehicle is even more expensive. Firstly, an automaker must engineer electric motors. Secondly, it must develop a new manufacturing process. It also must design battery packs. Finally, it must set up a reliable supply chain for the new batteries and other components. This last step stymied even General Motors, resulting in the infamous Chevy Bolt fires.
Subaru was resolved to design an electric vehicle. But the automaker would obviously lose lots of money doing so. Consequently, it would take many EV sales for Subaru to again see a profit. Subaru’s shareholders were obviously not excited about this news. Most shareholders could do nothing about it. But one shareholder had a plan to help. That company was the Toyota corporation.
Toyota owns 20% of Subaru
The web of ownership of auto manufacturers is a complex one. Therefore, suffice it to say, Toyota owns 20% of Subaru. Then, in September 2019, Subaru and Toyota renegotiated their business and capital alliance. Additionally, the new deal is built around the slogan: “Let’s make ever-better cars together.”
According to Toyota, its engineers designed an all-new EV chassis. Thus, it is called the Electric Toyota Next Generation Architecture (e-TNGA). In addition, Toyota admits that Subaru engineers had input on the AWD system used in the new architecture.
Subaru claims that the two companies developed a new chassis together, “while engaging in a friendly rivalry.” Regardless of how it was developed, the resulting 2023 Solterra will be built by Toyota, at Toyota’s Japanese factory.
The 2023 Subaru Solterra is identical to the Toyota bZ4X
The 2023 Subaru Solterra is not the only vehicle built on the new e-TNGA chassis. The 2022 Toyota bZ4X is mechanically identical to the Solterra. The bZ4X also comes in a single-motor, extended range, FWD configuration or a dual-motor AWD configuration. Both SUVs will be available with either a rooftop solar panel to generate a bit of their power or a sunroof.
The Toyota bZ4X and the Subaru Solterra even look identical. In truth, Subaru advertising mentions the Solterra’s “familiar” hexagonal grille. But nearly every other body panel on the SUV is identical to its Toyota cousin.
What does this mean for the future of Subaru? Many automakers feature multiple brands. Therefore, these manfucaturers sell mechanically-identical vehicles with various badges. GMC sells Chevrolet vehicles that are “professional grade,” while Lincoln sells luxury-oriented Ford technology.
That said, the Solterra is unique. Subaru and Toyota are not targeting it at the professional or luxury market. Instead, with its earth-friendly name and emphasis on solar panels, the Solterra appears targeted at the environmentally friendly market. Subaru’s future may be as a more efficient and earth-friendly Toyota upsell.