The appearance of Subaru's new XV crossover in trials on roads in Northland this year is the first stage of an ambitious plan by parent Fuji Heavy Industries to boost global sales over the next five years.
The production version of the XV is understood to be earmarked for road tests here in December, in readiness for its launch on both sides of the Tasman in March/April next year.
It will be the first of a handful of new all-wheel-drive models - including a hybrid and replacements for the Impreza WRX and STi - that Subaru plans to launch by 2016 to meet a global sales target of 900,000 vehicles, up from 657,000 last year.
One of the new Subarus will be the real-wheel-drive coupe co-developed with Toyota, although it is not known if it will be available in New Zealand.
The new Impreza sedan and hatchback will follow the XV later next year.
Subaru NZ managing director Wallis Dumper would not confirm the XV's appearance in Northland this year, only that the crossover would be launched here in 2012.
The XV has been described as the "little brother" to the Legacy Outback. Subaru is looking for the Impreza-based XV to create its own place in the world, rather than being another member of the Impreza family.
It will be the first model spun off the new Impreza platform and the first to show off the carmaker's new styling direction and its "Confidence in Motion" brand banner, highlighting what Subaru says are its core engineering values of dynamic performance, safety, driving enjoyment and quality.
Part of the company's five-year growth strategy is a plan to cut development costs of vehicles by 20 per cent. Subaru calls it "Motion V".
It includes the development of safety systems like EyeSight, a camera-based pre-crash system that will appear first in the Legacy range.
Much of the planned growth is to come from North America and China. Subaru sold a record 264,000 vehicles in the US in 2010 and aims to boost sales by 24 per cent to 380,000 over the next five years. Sales in China are expected to almost triple to 180,000 by 2016.
Dumper said the new Impreza would be a "massive technological leap" for the company.
"An incredibly lean petrol engine and a new-generation transmission are among exciting technologies that we'll reveal on New Zealand-spec versions in due course," he said. "There's been a huge amount of work on handling and ride, and I believe, dynamically, it will be the best small car on the market."
The model picks up new levels of interior refinement, says the company, with soft-touch plastics and a computerised dashboard display.
Overall dimensions remain unchanged from the current Impreza, although the wheelbase on the 2012 line-up is 23mm longer. The standard powertrain is expected to be a 2-litre flat-four engine mated to a continuously variable transmission.