While Subaru is often hailed in the green community for having a zero emission plant and long-lasting, quality products, the auto manufacturer seems to have hit a nerve with public transit commuters with its new Canadian metro ads. The ads suggest potential customers should avoid the weird smells, bad music and annoying panhandlers by purchasing a brand new car. While perhaps a funny joke in the marketing department of Subaru, the ads have conscious commuters trying to make a difference (and who probably actually own a Subaru they bought 15 years ago) up in arms. While public transit is not the most comfortable method of getting around, it is definitely greener than commuting by car.
Ads like these bring questions to mind about what makes a company sustainable. Subaru has done great work in quality and factory “greenification”, but strangely is not leading the effort to move to zero-emitting electric cars, or leading in fuel efficiency for that matter (it’s not even on the list for Consumer Reports’ fuel efficient vehicles). Now it seems to be discouraging people who are already doing the right thing for the environment by telling them to buy one of the worst things for it. Clearly Subaru has not looked much into a lifecycle assessment for their products or they would realize that gas consumption is the largest contributor to environmental destruction in the automobile industry.
Meanwhile, the benefits to taking public transit can go beyond fuel economy. While one may occasionally come across annoying people or strange scents, those occurrences are nominal compared to the number of times you can be annoyed while driving (seeing people on their phone, being cut off, honked at, or tailgated for starters). There is no worry about paying for or finding parking. You can browse the internet or read a book on your way to work. In some cases, it is even less expensive than taking your car every day. It is also a fun place to people watch and network.
So where does Subaru see its mission of sustainability? Clearly not at the forefront of its marketing strategy. Perhaps three years ago it was, but it seems to have faded from company culture along with the floundering economy.