Kotaro Watanabe
Director General
Subaru México

Driver Experience, Safety Before Sales

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 15:04

Vehicle brands must constantly evolve with technology, preparing for the future without losing sight of user experience. Among Subaru’s goals is to design cars for a more enjoyable life. The vehicle maker has been building its reputation by inspiring trust among Mexicans for over 10 years with a focus on the driver. Its target? To conquer 1 percent of local market sales by 2020.

“Our plant does not aim to produce in volume. We are interested in quality for our customers,” says Kotaro Watanabe, Director General of Subaru México, who adds that the company’s objective is to identify its customers in any given country and establish the brand using the same methods already working in other countries. Before expanding to capture new clients’ attention, the OEM wants to care for the clients it already has and improve its aftersales service.

Watanabe recognizes that gaining a loyal clientele is a team effort. His goal is to reinforce Subaru’s service quality together with its dealerships by first understanding how their operations cross over. The next step is to improve mutual capacity, mechanics’ skills and the service that sales advisers provide. Its commitment to Mexican clients led Subaru to open offices in the capital city in 2016, and the first Auto Parts Warehouse in Mexico City.

Watanabe explains that his team is not looking for massive sales at the moment. It wants to strengthen direct communication channels using the internet and has implemented a development plan to consolidate its countrywide distribution chain. During the last 10 years, Subaru has grown in the US, especially in the Sun Belt states just next to the border with Mexico. Through customer contacts received via the internet, it has detected that many Mexicans, especially those who frequently cross the border, are already familiar with Subaru’s quality. Success in Mexico will rely on matching the quality of local service to the brand’s standards.

To cater to those limited to online information about Subaru’s vehicles, the company made big changes to its homepage and established a social media campaign launched in September 2016. Watanabe says online service quality can always be improved, “especially in areas that enable us to understand the needs of our customers or areas where improvement is required.” He believes a strong distribution chain is important because people do not enquire about budgets online, they ask where to buy.

The OEM wants Mexicans to become familiar with its diverse portfolio of products, such as the Boxer engine, which Subaru firmly believes is the optimum design for driving enjoyment. The Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system is another interesting market proposition for customers. Designed to optimize both traction and balance, the entire system lies along the centerline of the vehicle, balancing weight distribution to provide optimal performance and control.

As part of the company’s plans to promote its driver-focused vehicles in Mexico, it will launch the Subaru Global Platform (SGP), a cutting-edge redesign of the body and chassis that advances performance and delivers a new type of superior driving experience. SGP reinforces the vehicle’s rigidity by 70- 100 percent compared to current models, stabilizing handling and shock absorption by 40 percent. These security-focused changes to technology are different from others brands, according to Watanabe.

The brand’s Lineartronic technology, a continuously variable transmission, not only makes driving quieter and smoother, it makes the Subaru Boxer engine and Symmetrical AllWheel more efficient. This keeps the engine in its ideal power range to deliver class-leading fuel consumption and reduce CO2 emissions. In terms of security, the product Eye Sight, a driver-assist technology, helps with movement in traffic, optimizes cruise control and warns the driver if the car leaves the lane.

The company’s objective is to sell 2,000 units in 2017 but the priority to improve service and processes stands. After the brand announced the next SUV, the new Subaru XV, another surprise is lined up for the Mexican market in 2017. The seven-seater SUV Ascent, a new concept announced at the New York International Auto Show in April 2017, will replace Subaru’s Tribeca SUV.