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Subaru is to unveil a new concept coupë at the Geneva Motor Show which will indicate a whole new design direction for the brand. It will be curvier, more elegant than any production Subaru so far, and show new treatments for the lights, grilles, windows and general profiles of upcoming new Subaru models. Said to be slightly bigger than the current Impreza, but probably built on a version of its platform, its emphasis will be on sporting prowess and it will be fitted with a suitably high-performance engine. However, it is not the precursor to a production model as such, but more of a styling exercise and indicator as to future trends.

Subaru has recently recruited a new chief designer, Andreas Zapatinas, whose portfolio includes the Alfa Romeo 147, Fiat Barchetta and Alfa 156. Although Zapatinas may have joined Subaru too late to have designed this concept from scratch, he will have had a strong hand in its execution and influenced its final appearance. A source within Subaru is said to have described it as "a sexier-looking 147", though as Subaru hasn't released any pictures of it yet, we can't judge that claim...

A Subaru spokesman also shed doubt on claims that the rumoured Saab 9-1 is to share its platform with the next-generation Impreza (see our 9-1 Spy Shot story), under a deal within the General Motors empire (GM owns 20 percent of Subaru). He said that Subaru has always been wary of sharing its four-wheel-drive technology with any other manufacturer - he described it as "selling the family jewels" - and that as GM only owns 20 percent of Subaru, it would have to come to a formal licensing agreement with the small Japanese company in order to gain access to the Impreza platform. There has been no such agreement as yet. There is also the additional problem that the platform necessitates the use of the Subaru flat-four engines - which again, the company wants to keep exclusive to the brand. And as Saab has limited manufacturing capacity in Sweden and no expertise in four-wheel drive, these 9-1s would have to be built by Subaru in Japan - and the company does not have the capacity to make either enough extra platforms or engines for another firm.

However, Subaru is keen to use GM's fuel cell technology, and make use of some of its research and development facilities, so there is potential for some sharing of resources. The firm also needs substantial investment to upgrade its factory to make the next-generation Impreza and Legacy models, and agreeing to build some more cars for Saab/GM could result in a large cash injection to both fund the development of these models and to create the facilities to produce them. There is no indication, however, that GM wants to take a larger stake in Subaru than it currently has (it owns a larger proportion of Suzuki, which gives it a certain foothold in the Japanese market), or that it wants to exploit the existing tie-up further. GM has traditionally let Subaru carry on independently, and the companies' relationship is very different to that between GM and Saab, which long struggled with financial difficulties and flagging sales both before and after GM took its stake in the early '90s. Subaru is in a much stronger position to say no to the General.

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