THE end is nigh for the Subaru Liberty, after Subaru Australia announced it was calling time on the veteran mid-sized sedan, some 31 years after it was first launched on to the local market.
Once the cornerstone of its range, the Liberty played a significant role in growing Subaru’s Australian presence, from the launch of the first generation in 1989. It marked a calculated shift in Subaru’s passenger car range.
It was a move towards sophisticated metropolitan market success, which was recognised by a long series of automotive awards. These awards distinguished Liberty from the medium market pack.
More recent contraction of the medium sector has seen Subaru’s burgeoning Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) range surpass Liberty’s previous successes – not least with the Outback, which has always shared the same platform.
Over the past two years, Liberty has sold a combined total of 2,441, compared to Outback’s sales of 13,844 – a clear indication of market preferences. Over the generations, Liberty has sold more than 153,700 in Australia.
“While customer preferences have moved on to other vehicles in our range, Liberty has played a hugely influential role in the brand’s growth and reputation for engineering, safety, durability and retained value.,” Subaru Australia’s managing director Christian Dinsdale said.
“It was our first model with global appeal and moved the brand away from its utilitarian roots to becoming a respected automotive company. Not only has Liberty established a reputation as a great car, it also pioneered our early rally motor sport success story.”
The first turbocharged Liberty models paved the way for the successes that followed with Subaru Rally Team Australia and the Subaru World Rally Team. The late Possum Bourne drove a factory Liberty RS turbo in the Australian Rally Championship in the early 1990s.
The production RS turbo has since established a reputation as a ‘cult classic’ among motoring enthusiasts. The Liberty’s long list of awards include two Wheels Car of the Year titles, in 1995 and 1999.
Highly rated from its earliest days for crashworthiness, Liberty helped firmly establish Subaru’s safety credentials in Australia, with every variant getting then rare dual front airbags in 1994.
“For those customers still seeking a Subaru sedan, we remind them that current generation Impreza closely mimics the physical size of third generation Liberty sedan and, of course, offers the same symmetrical All-Wheel Drive attributes,” Mr Dinsdale added.
“Equally, WRX is a performance sedan option that is probably the closest relative to the various turbocharged Liberty variants, such as the RS, GT and tuned by STI, which captured the hearts of so many enthusiastic drivers in their heyday.”
Further details of what, if anything, Subaru Australia will do to mark the end of the Liberty era, are expected soon.