Subaru starts building new SUV model in Lafayette

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LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — The Subaru factory in Lafayette has started building a redesigned Outback SUV that an executive calls a key vehicle for the automaker.

Factory workers gathered Monday to celebrate the first day of production on the 2015 model, which is among three Subaru vehicles built there.

The Outback is essential to the company's success, said Toshiaki Tamegai, Subaru of Indiana Automotive's president and CEO.

"(The Outback) will become ever more important to meet the demands of our customers, and I am confident the associates will meet the expectations," Tamegai told the Journal & Courier.

Subaru is working on plans for a $400 million expansion and upgrade of the Lafayette factory. Subaru officials say the start of production on the Impreza small car at the factory in 2016 will make up for Toyota's decision to stop building cars at the Lafayette plant when the contract between the companies ends that year.

Tom Easterday, Subaru of Indiana's executive vice president, told WLFI-TV the 3,600-worker factory is scheduled to make more than 300,000 vehicles by the end of March 2015.

The Lafayette factory, which opened in 1989, also builds Subaru's Legacy cars and the Tribeca SUV.

The factory produced 500 Outbacks a month in 1995 and that jumped within two years to 5,000 a month, Easterday said.

"Subaru of America is selling on average 10,000 Outbacks a month," Easterday said. "I expect they will sell as many as we can make."

To meet that demand, Outback production workers are being assigned one hour of overtime each shift, and in June they will begin working two Saturdays each month, Easterday said.

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