Subaru’s 3-Row SUV: Give It A Name

Subaru needs your help naming its next Crossover. No, the Japanese carmaker has not asked for assistance. But its naming history, which includes the Justy, Loyale, Brat, Baja and Tribeca, justifies an intervention.

The company said the vehicle, coming to its Indiana assembly line in 2018, will be larger than the Tribeca it is meant to replace and will offer a “full” third row of seats. And it “will likely carry a name synonymous with outdoor adventure,” Subaru said.

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Subaru’s last three-row crossover, the Tribeca, sold poorly due in part to its cramped rearmost seats. Clunky exterior styling didn’t help.

Well, “Outback” is about the best nameplate they have come up with, so maybe another big, regional-sounding moniker would work. Badlands? Great Plains? Mississippi Delta? Perhaps “Pine Barrens” would fit, given the company’s U.S. headquarters in southern New Jersey.

Seriously, though, having just returned from a 1,000-mile family trip to Maine in our aging, cargo-space-challenged Outback, I found the latest news intriguing. For many longtime Subaru drivers who love the cars but could use a smidgen more room, the response will be a mix of “That’s a good idea” and “What took you so long?” Feel free to add your choice of expletive between “so” and “long.”

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Subaru tried to cast the Tribeca in the adventurous image of its other vehicles.

Here’s what I mean by “long”: I recall the unveiling of the late Tribeca crossover – built on the Legacy car platform — at the New York auto show more than a decade ago. It was clear then that the vehicle was too small (more foul language between “too” and “small?”) to compete with other seven-seat crossovers and SUVs. Tribeca sales, for years among the worst in the industry, supported that skepticism.

This was a period when auto makers were beginning to realize that any utility vehicle without a third row of seats was a hard sell. But not all had figured out yet that the third row also had to be useful.

Let’s be fair. Subaru appears to be on the right track and has gotten most things right in the last several years. I can barely drive a block without spotting a new Outback or Foresters, and the company expects to sell more than 550,000 cars by year’s end – triple the number it sold in 2007.

Still, you might send them a suggestion.

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