Subaru is the automotive branch of Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), which was formed in 1953 by the merger of five companies that were previously part of Japan's first private aircraft manufacturer, Nakajima Aircraft Ltd. In 1954, FHI unveiled its first automotive prototype, the P-1. Engineered and designed to comfortably seat four adults while providing a stable and comfortable ride, the FHI P-1 would, in 1955, be renamed the Subaru 1500 - the first car to ever wear the Subaru name. The lessons learned during the development of the 1500 led to the 1958 debut of the Subaru 360, which became a milestone in the history of Japan's automotive industry and established Subaru as a builder of small, affordable, yet technologically advanced cars.
In 1972, Subaru took a bold step by introducing the first four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle designed specifically for everyday driving, the Leone 4WD Station Wagon. Until then, 4WD had been limited to off-road and specialty vehicles, giving the Leone 4WD the distinction of introducing the safety and performance advantages of 4WD to a whole new segment of drivers around the world. Over the years, the Leone 4WD became the world's top-selling four-wheel drive passenger car, paving the way for the development of the Subaru symmetrical full-time All-Wheel Drive system.