Subaru is one of the most popular and fast-growing automotive brands in America. Subaru’s reputation for building safe, reliable, durable, and adventurous vehicles has led to incredible demand.
But where are Subaru cars and SUVs actually made?
While Subaru got its start in Japan, today Subaru operates major manufacturing plants in 5 countries around the world including the United States, China, Thailand, and Malaysia.
In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Subaru’s manufacturing facilities and locations across the globe. We’ll explore Subaru’s history and growth as a global automotive manufacturer.
Table of Contents
A Brief History of Subaru Vehicle Production
Subaru’s parent company Fuji Heavy Industries was formed in 1953 specifically to manufacture vehicles. The first Subaru car – the Subaru 1500 – rolled off the production line in Japan that same year.
For nearly two decades, Subaru only built vehicles in Japan to serve the domestic market. But in the 1970s, Subaru expanded exports to the United States and opened its first manufacturing plant outside Japan to meet growing international demand.
Today, Subaru operates major automotive manufacturing facilities in 5 countries around the world including Japan, the United States, China, Thailand and Malaysia. The expansion beyond Japan has been key to Subaru’s growth into a global brand.
While Japan remains central to Subaru’s engineering and vehicle development, having production bases around the world has allowed Subaru to improve distribution, reduce shipping costs, avoid import duties, and cater vehicle designs to local markets.
Now let’s take a detailed tour of Subaru’s current manufacturing facilities in each key location around the globe.
Subaru’s Main Car Production Plants in Japan
Subaru’s home country of Japan is still pivotal to the brand’s engineering and manufacturing operations today. Subaru has three major automobile manufacturing plants located in Gunma, Saitama, and Tochigi prefectures near Tokyo:
Gunma Manufacturing Plant
- The Gunma plant has the largest production capacity of any Subaru factory at 1 million vehicles per year.
- Produces models including the Impreza, Crosstrek, WRX, and BRZ sports car.
- Also manufactures important engine components.
Saitama Manufacturing Plant
- Located in Sayama, north of Tokyo.
- Has capacity for 640,000 vehicles per year.
- Manufactures the Forester SUV model primarily for global markets.
Tochigi Manufacturing Plant
- Opened in 1991 and produces 360,000 vehicles annually.
- Manufactures the Legacy, Outback, and Levorg models.
- Also produces all-wheel drive system components.
Between Subaru’s three major plants, total annual vehicle production capacity in Japan is approximately 2 million units per year.
While production outside Japan has grown, the home factories remain essential hubs for R&D, engineering, and engine manufacturing. They ensure Subaru’s traditions of quality, reliability and safety.
Subaru’s Major US Manufacturing Plant
Given the popularity of Subaru vehicles in North America, having a strong production base in the US market is crucial.
Subaru’s main US manufacturing facility is the Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) plant located in Lafayette, Indiana.
Here are key facts about Subaru’s Indiana plant:
- The Indiana plant opened in 1989 specifically to supply Subaru vehicles for the North American market. This reduced import costs and catered vehicle designs for American tastes.
- Today the plant has an annual production capacity of 390,000 vehicles and employs over 5,900 workers.
- The Indiana facility manufactures popular Subaru models including the Outback, Ascent, Impreza, and Legacy. It has produced over 5 million Subaru vehicles to date.
- The plant has undergone major expansions over the years to increase capacity and add production of new models like the 3-row Ascent SUV. This allows Subaru to keep pace with rising US demand.
- In 2019, the Indiana plant accounted for 71% of Subaru vehicles sold in America. It is Subaru’s only manufacturing facility in the US market.
Having their own American factory has been a key component of Subaru’s rising US market share and brand awareness. It has helped make Subaru into one of the fastest growing automotive brands in America over the past decade.
Subaru Manufacturing Operations in China
China is the world’s largest auto market, so having local production there is essential for Subaru’s global growth.
Subaru partners with the major Chinese manufacturer FAW Group to produce vehicles for Chinese consumers. Here are details on Subaru’s China production:
- Subaru and FAW jointly operate the Subaru China plant located in Changchun in northeast China.
- The China plant first opened in 2014 and has an annual production capacity of 100,000 vehicles.
- Current models manufactured there include the Forester, Outback, Crosstrek and Impreza modified for the local market.
- The China plant allows Subaru to reduce costs and sales prices in the competitive Chinese auto market. This results in increased China sales for Subaru.
- Local manufacturing also allows faster delivery times and caters vehicle designs to Chinese consumer preferences.
While the China plant is one of Subaru’s smaller factories, it remains strategic for increasing Subaru’s brand presence in the world’s largest car market.
Subaru’s Manufacturing Plant in Thailand
To expand production for growing demand in Southeast Asia, Subaru opened its first plant in Thailand in 2011.
Details on Subaru’s Thai manufacturing facility:
- The Thailand plant is located in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, north-east of Bangkok.
- It was opened in a partnership with local manufacturer Tan Chong Motor Assemblies.
- The plant has an annual production capacity of 180,000 vehicles per year.
- Main models manufactured there include the XV, Forester, and Outback.
- Most output is exported from Thailand to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and other Asia-Pacific right-hand-drive markets.
- Thailand plant allows for localization and customization for Asia-Pacific markets. Reduces export costs from Japan.
The Thailand plant signifies the importance of Asia-Pacific markets for Subaru’s growth. It improves distribution logistics and product appeal for the region.
Subaru Car Manufacturing Plant in Malaysia
Rounding out Subaru’s manufacturing footprint is their plant located in Malaysia. Here are the key details:
- The Malaysia plant is Subaru’s smallest factory with a capacity of 10,000 vehicles per year.
- It is operated by Tan Chong Motor Assemblies who has assembled Subaru vehicles there since 2003.
- The plant mainly produces Subaru models modified for southeast Asian markets like the Forester, XV, and Impreza.
- The Malaysia plant exports Subaru vehicles primarily to Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other ASEAN nations.
- Local production allows competitive pricing and customization for southeast Asian consumers.
The small Malaysia plant expands Subaru’s presence in growing Asian automotive markets outside of Japan.
Why Does Subaru Maintain Global Production Bases?
In review, Subaru currently manufactures vehicles in 5 countries across 3 continents. But why does Subaru operate multiple international production plants rather than centralizing manufacturing in Japan?
Here are the key strategic reasons why Subaru has expanded global production sites:
Reduced Shipping Costs and Import Duties
- Local manufacturing avoids long-distance shipping costs from Japan. This allows more competitive pricing in foreign markets.
- On-continent production within NAFTA and ASEAN zones avoids import taxes and duties.
Increased Brand Awareness
- Having a local plant raises Subaru’s brand visibility and dealership presence in foreign markets.
- This is especially vital in the huge US and China markets where Subaru is increasing market share.
Vehicle Design Localization
- Enables adapting vehicles with features preferred by local markets like larger models for America.
- Right-hand-drive production for Asia-Pacific countries.
- Geographically diversified manufacturing reduces risks like supply chain disruptions.
- Local production globally also hedges currency risks for exports.
In summary, global production facilities are a strategic investment that has allowed Subaru’s sales and brand recognition to thrive worldwide.
Is Subaru Moving All Manufacturing Out of Japan?
Given Subaru’s large overseas manufacturing footprint, does this mean Japan is no longer important to Subaru’s production operations?
While Subaru has significantly grown international plants, Japan remains absolutely central to Subaru’s engineering, design and manufacturing.
Here are reasons Japan is still pivotal to Subaru’s vehicle production:
- Japan remains home to Subaru’s three largest plants that account for over 50% of total production.
- The Gunma engine plant manufactures the crucial Boxer engines found in every Subaru model.
- Subaru’s main R&D facilities and test tracks are located close to Japan factories.
- Japan plants oversee vital quality control and training for all global sites.
However, Subaru is continuing to expand capacity at their overseas factories in America, China, and Asia. Reasons include:
- Meet rising overseas vehicle demand as Subaru sales grow.
- Hedge currency risks for exports.
- Reduce potential impacts of natural disasters in Japan.
So in summary, while Japan is still the spiritual home and engineering center of Subaru, expect more vehicles to be manufactured in Subaru’s overseas plants moving forward.
Interesting Facts About Subaru’s Manufacturing
Subaru takes great pride in their innovative, efficient and high-quality approach to manufacturing. Here are some fascinating facts about how Subaru makes their vehicles:
- Every Subaru plant utilizes an assembly line synchronization system to maximize workflow efficiency. This is modeled after Japanese production management philosophy.
- Subaru manufacturing machines can stamp out 60 steel body panels per minute at their press facility.
- Fuji Heavy Industries actually supplies Toyota with passenger car transmissions manufactured by Subaru in Japan.
- Subaru uses “Autonomous Delivery Vehicles” instead of forklifts to transport parts between stations at their Indiana plant. This improves safety.
- The Subaru production system aims for 100% recycling of water used at manufacturing facilities.
Subaru prioritizes environmental impact, safety, and efficiency across all their global car manufacturing operations.
Summary – Where Subaru Vehicles Are Made Around the World
In this comprehensive overview, we learned:
- Subaru’s manufacturing began in Japan in 1953 and has since expanded globally.
- While Japan remains the center for development, Subaru now operates major plants in 5 countries: Japan, USA, China, Thailand and Malaysia.
- Local plants allow more competitive pricing, increased sales, and vehicle designs catered to foreign markets.
- But Japan is still critical for R&D and quality control as Subaru’s original home.
So Subaru vehicles sold worldwide are now manufactured in Subaru’s global network of technologically advanced plants in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the United States.
This geographically diversified production combined with Subaru’s trademark quality has allowed the brand to thrive across international markets. Subaru seems poised for even stronger global growth in the years ahead.