Transit Commuters Are Stinking Low-Lifes, Subaru Tells Transit Commuters

Think transit commuters are unwashed, uncouth bums? Subaru does. And the carmaker doesn’t mind telling them so.

In recent Canadian editions of Metro — the free daily distributed at transit stops — Subaru ran a two-page spread spouting just about every negative transit, and transit rider, stereotype you can think of. The ad was brought to our attention by Sabrina Lau Texier, a transportation planner in Vancouver.

“While you’re sitting on public transit, just imagine your commute in a new Subaru Impreza,” the copy reads. “No weird smells, no overhearing awful music, and nobody asking you for spare change.” Classy.

On the first page are “coupons” for an “odour free ride to work” (nothing but that carcinogenic new car smell), “less chance of being asked for money” (except by Subaru and Exxon), savings on “obligatory transit conversations with coworkers” (down with human interaction!), “free confidence” (for $19,995), and our favorite: “half off arbitrary and inexplicable transit delays.” As opposed to the gridlock-free ride we can expect if we all ditch transit to drive a Subaru to the office — alone, of course, to avoid those unpleasant conversations with co-workers.

The ad implies that the Impreza has a better safety rating than transit. Canada had 6.5 traffic fatalities and 500 injuries per 100,000 people in 2010, according to the latest available figures.

Think the folks at Subaru don’t know transit ridership is booming, and not because commuters just need to be sold on “symmetrical full-time All-Wheel Drive”? Ads like this one, as Lau Texier puts it, are “a desperate attempt to stay relevant for an industry with declining sales.”

Maybe a campaign based on the premise that your target audience is a bunch of losers is not the most winning strategy.

  • M. Romney

    You only see the negative side of it–the expense to you. the rest of us see one less jerk on the bus. And I see $600 x 12 =$7200 for a nice car vacation with my dog each year.

  • M. Romney

    You only see the negative side of it–the expense to you. the rest of us see one less jerk on the bus. And I see $600 x 12 =$7200 for a nice car vacation with my dog each year.

  • new jersey transit advocate

    I would love copies of that Subaru ad to be given to every individual who uses public transit in either Canada or the U.S., along with the name, address, and home phone number of Subaru’s Director of Marketing. In my wildest dreams, I cannot conceive of anyone with a rational mind approving a campaign that maligns millions of potential customers all over the world. What the hell were they thinking?

  • Roadblock

    It’s offensive… but it’s also kinda true… I mean, the Redline elevators smell like piss some days and hyper strong scented perfume (assumedly to hide the eau du piss smell.) However, I pride myself on being a strong enough human to deal with this kind of intermittent sensory disruption.

  • Mr. Perception

    Mr. Walker – except it isn’t a misperception. Service on the LA Metro is on par with the TSA and IRS. It’s not only a fair criticism, it’s an honest attack.

    That some are more willing to endure or disregard discomfort because of a deeper feeling for the factors you list doesn’t negate the objective truth here.

    Instead of ignoring those problems or saying “get over it” perhaps a better tact would be to acknowledge them and seek improvements?

  • Bolwerk

    Really? Who says that? Now, understandably, people prefer rail to buses because buses aren’t especially practical for much more than low-traffic, last-mile service. But that problem has nothing to do with the class of people who use buses.

  • Bolwerk

    Meanwhile, service on the LA freeways is on par with a constipated bowel; it’s a wonder that anyone is willing to endure or disregard discomfort to use that clusterfuck. LA may be trying to improve itself with transit investments, but a paragon of good transportation it is not.

  • Michael P. McGillicuddy

    “offensive stereotype”? Well yeah maybe; but you know, it’s like my Grandpa Clem Stonebender used to tell me, when I was a sprout in Indiana; “Every stereotype has its prototype, Mikey.” Now he said it was something the Leprechauns told him, and I always took those things with a grain of salt; but it does appear applicable in this instance, don’t you think?

  • Since when have car ads (print or television) been accurate?

    When was the last time you saw a car ad on TV that depicted what it’s really like to drive in a city?
    No large traffic jams with people looking miserable sitting idle, cursing people cycling by with smiles on their faces.

    Instead, somehow all these cities are completely empty, with the exception with one speeding car.
    Or more recently, they skip the city altogether and just show someone speeding in the country.

    As for the last ad “Unlike public transit, it has a media hub”. Really? I suspect people’s smartphones, tablets or MP3 players fit the media hub category quite nicely.
    And at least on transit you can enjoy the media, unlike in the car where you should be focused on the road!

  • Boots

    That’s worth $8,000 a year? Have fun getting fat and poor

  • Joe R.

    Let me see-you need to earn an extra $7,200 after taxes, which in turn probably means around $12,000 before taxes, to avoid public transit. In a lifetime of working that’s another $480,000 you need to earn. Put that $12,000 annually into an IRA or a 401K, let it grow tax deferred, and you can probably retire 15 years early. If you think it’s worth it all power to you but to each his own. I’d rather retire 15 years early.

  • CBinVAN

    Here is what I heard back from Subaru:

    Thank you for taking the time to contact Subaru Canada.

    As you know, Subaru Canada recently ran an ad poking fun at some of the general perceptions of the public transit experience. Our aim was to use the humour of everyday situations to reach Canadian consumers, but we did not intend to be insulting or offensive.

    Subaru gives all feedback serious consideration and we do our best to listen to our customers. We have stopped running the ad as an immediate, direct result of the feedback received. Please accept our sincere apologies for this misstep.

    At Subaru, we pride ourselves on offering vehicles that inspire confidence and peace of mind throughout the ownership experience. We hope to have the opportunity to prove to you, our valued customer, that our focus is on meeting your needs. Thank you again for communicating with us.

  • But you don’t do that, do you? You will retire same time as I.

  • I get home much faster, I get more time to work out and have time with my family.

  • To each it’s own. I have a mini vacation with my family every day, because I save 1.5 in commute a day vs public transit.

  • Hahaha!! Sounds like someone is butthurt. Shave of your beard, get rid on the Pabst, get a good job, and you can afford things too.

  • Michael P. McGillicuddy

    “Every stereotype has its prototype.”


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