The SVX is a unique vehicle in Subaru of America's (SOA) and Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) history. The car was a sporty 2+2 GT and it introduced the first 6 cylinder boxer engine for FHI. Originally
designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, yet denied by FHI for years, if you have ever been to the Ital Design as I have, you will see in the lobby museum a photo of the car alongside all of the
other fantastic Giugiaro designs. Unfortunately first FHI and then SOA messed with the design a bit and as a result some of the beautiful proportions of the original were lost. It also
suffered from being stillborn at FHI for a couple of years so by the time it was launched the design had lost some of it's edge. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful GT car.
As Manager of Product Development at the Subaru Technical Center I was responsible for a number of vehicle systems in the development of the car. Since this was a high end car, an automatic climate control system
was specified for the car. Having studied competitive systems over many I years I prepared a specification and performance target for this system. At the design stage, placement of vent outlets, airflow requirements in
fresh and recirc modes, system capacity and control panel functions and layouts are critically important. I was able to negotiate vehicle specifications with the FHI engineers to obtain the necessary requirements to
achieve an effective system, including the layout and operation of the control panel suitable for the US market. Once the basic system was designed, I led test teams with a prototype car and system on field tests to tune the system response
and performance to provide acceptible comfort in various and varying environmental conditions. Much of the field testing was done on in the Phoenix/Flagstaff area where temperature extremes could be experienced in
a 24 hour period on a specific test pattern I used. I also reviewed additional testing in FHI's climate chamber which was necessary to resolved some final issues before I approved the system as acceptible. The result was
a very effective and nicely operating automatic climate control system.
I was also responsible for developing an effective cruise control system. Cruise control systems were still a bit of a mystery to FHI at that time, yet I had the experience of developing C/C systems on a number
of previous models, including the Legacy. Again I worked with the FHI engineers to prepare the car for the C/C system. The functions and operation of the steering wheel mounted controls was an area requiring a lot
of work and negotiation. For the SVX, a vehicle having both luxury and sporty aspects, it was necessary to tune the system responses more on the aggressive side to match the character of the car. Tuning the system
required field testing the prototype vehicle with a team of FHI, SOA and vendor engineers. Test patterns in the Phoenix area were used. The result was a C/C system with responses that were in character
with the car and the American driver temperment.
The security/keyless entry system was another fine development for this car. If C/C systems were a mystery to the FHI engineers, they had no clue about a security/keyless entry system. Based on
experience with developing security systems for previous models, I prepared a specification in conjunction with our US vendor. Preparing the vehicle for this system was critical to success and negotiation and coordinatio
of the vehicle specifications required numerous trips to Japan. I was able to get the vehicle set up for our system, including the necessary circuits in the wiring harness, mounting points for system components, and
the location of operating switches on the instrument panel. In the course of development I evolved improvements in the functional logic of the system which greatly simplified the ease and use of the system. This
eliminated the fear that many people had of these systems of the alarm going off unexpectedly at the carwash, etc. These systems were installed on the US side on 100% of the vehicles.
Audio system tuning was always an important part of preparing a car for the US market. By the time of the SVX the early radio problems of FM station selectivity and AM reception over bridges, etc
had been resolved. What was never resolved is the difference in the "taste" of sound quality between Americans and Japanese. The Japanese seemed to prefer a very high frequency sound quality, and Americans preferred
stronger midrange and bass response - usually in inverse proportion to the age of the listener, as you no doubt experience while sitting at a stoplight from time to time! Over time we established a jury testing procedure
to tune the sound quality. A part of this process included adjusting the sensitivity and range of the volume control, and the center point and range of the tone and balance/fader controls. The result was an acceptable
and successful "Americanized" system.
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