The meaning of ‘Subaru’

Nearly all of the most popular vehicles in each state are built by companies named after their founder or a key designer.

Henry Ford, Louis Chevrolet, Soichiro Honda, Kiichiro Toyoda (Toyota) and Louis Renault.

The Subaru Outback is Oregon’s most popular car, according to USA Today.

Is there a Mr. Subaru? No. So what is with the name? Here things get, well, spacey.

The Japanese word “Subaru” is the name for the constellation Pleiades. In mythology, the Pleiades were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas. When their father was busy carrying the world on his shoulders, they were pursued by Orion, a gigantic hunter. Zeus, the top god, turned them into stars to hide them. The constellation Orion still chases the Pleiades across the night sky. Depending on which version of the tale is told, the youngest daughter, Merope, either hid from shame or escaped to marry Sisyphus, who would roll a stone perpetually up a hill, only to have it roll back. Whatever the case, Merope disappeared, hence the reason there are only six stars — not seven — in the Subaru logo.

Oregonians love their cars, be they banged-up Subaru Outbacks or a brand-new plug-it-in Tesla Model S.

There were more than a few cars parked under the Christmas tree — or at least out in the driveway — this Yuletide. Particularly with the new year ringing in a one-half of 1 percent tax on dealers for each new car sold. The money is earmarked for state transportation improvements.

In celebration of the holiday gift-giving season or in mourning of New Year’s taxes, here are a few odds and ends about automotive Oregon.

The long of it: U.S. Highway 20

Bend is near the far west end of the longest highway in the nation. U.S. Highway 20 runs 3,365 miles from near the Pacific Ocean in Newport to near the Atlantic Ocean in Boston. Unlike interstate highways built later that bulldozed their way through the land, U.S. 20 twists and turns with the topography and makes jogs to hook up with north and south highways. Its 451.25-mile-long route in Oregon includes Corvallis, Albany, Sweet Home, Sisters, Bend, Brothers, Burns, and Cairo Junction before exiting into Idaho at Nyssa.

Keep driving east and the same highway will take you to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho and to Hell’s Half Acre and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Cities along the way include Boise, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; Sioux City, Iowa, Chicago; Cleveland; and Buffalo and Albany, both in New York, before terminating at Kenmore Square, near Fenway Park, in Boston.

Oregon’s favorite vehicle: Subaru Outback

Sometimes the cliche is true. Across the United States, the top-selling new vehicle is the Ford F-150 pickup, according to USA Today. It’s tops in over 20 states. You can drive from Savannah, Georgia, to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, without leaving a state where the F-150 is the top pick of residents.

But that route doesn’t go coast to coast. The Honda Civic rules in California, while Oregon and Washington form a solid wall of Subaru Outbacks in the Pacific Northwest.

The Japanese automaker isn’t one of the top 20 largest automakers in sales worldwide, but its Outback is tops not only in Oregon and Washington, but also in Colorado, USA Today reported.

Oregon has long been known as the place for “Subies and Birkies,” Subaru cars and Birkenstock shoes. The connection with the comfortable if willfully unfashionable shoe is one some at Subaru want to lose.

Wards AutoWorld magazine reported in April the automaker’s cutting-edge design team is tired of being “the Birkenstocks of automobiles.”

This faction at Subaru is counting on options like the redesigned Impreza sports model to break into a younger, more urban market. It’s the brainchild of the company’s advanced design center in that very un-Oregon-like enclave of Orange County, California.

Top car brand: Toyota

Though the Outback is the top vehicle, Toyota is the top nameplate — with 19 percent of the state’s new car sales. Ford is a distant second with 11 percent, according to the Portland Business Journal. Rounding out the top five are Subaru, Honda and Chevrolet.

Oregon’s first car: Locomobile

According to The Oregonian in November 1899, E. Henry Wemme had a Locomobile, a single-seat contraption that looked like a buggy without a horse. As it sputtered and popped around town, the newspaper reported it hit a then-amazing 20 miles per hour.

Oregon town with best bargain on (some) used cars

If you are thinking of buying a used car from an individual on, it might be worth taking a road trip. Buying a used car in Bend will run you about $604 above the state average, according to the website (rated in the top 10 used car websites by

In an analysis of 85,000 listings in Oregon, the overwhelmingly best region in the state to buy a car is the far northwest, around Portland.

The top spot is Aloha, in Washington County, where buyers can save $788 off the state average. Hillsboro is $781 below average, Beaverton is $653 below average, while Portland itself is $484 below average.

On the other hand, used-car buyers are likely to pay above the state average in Medford ($643 higher), Corvallis ($725), and Albany ($767).

But everything is relative. Overall, Oregon ranks 46th out of 50 states in affordability for used cars on Sale prices run about $998 higher than the national average. Bend, at $2,000 above the national average, ranks 985th among U.S. cities big enough to make the list. Ouch.

The measures were only for and do not measure sale prices at dealers or other websites. The best time to buy a car in Bend? Winter. The worst? July. That is similar to national trends on the website.

Oldest car dealership: Wentworth Chevrolet-Subaru, Portland. Wentworth calls itself “the oldest car dealership in Oregon” and opened its doors in 1903. The dealership has been run by Wentworths for five generations and pre-dates both of the brands it sells today.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280,