Subaru talks of moving its HQ

Cherry Hill mulls impact as auto company grows.

Posted: February 06, 2013

Subaru of America Inc., which has its national headquarters in Cherry Hill, is considering leaving the township, though the mayor says he's working to prevent that.

The auto company, based at its Route 70 location since 1986, has indicated to the township that it may move to consolidate operations at a larger facility.

While company officials said they have made no decisions, Cherry Hill is confronting the possibility of losing the business — and the $440,210 in property taxes it paid last year.

About 300 employees work at Subaru headquarters, a seven-story, 115,000-square-foot building.

It wouldn't be big enough, however, to hold the 900 employees the company hopes to have at a new facility, according to township officials.

As a result, "they're very seriously looking at leaving Cherry Hill," township spokeswoman Bridget Palmer said Tuesday. "It's something we're concerned about."

A Subaru spokesman said the company hasn't decided to leave Cherry Hill but is considering its options.

"We are tentatively looking at other locations to suit our growing business," said Michael McHale, Subaru's director of corporate communications.

The company's sales have doubled during the last five years, and "we're at a point where we're adding people and operations to the business," McHale said.

He would not comment on other sites that the company may be considering and said that even if Subaru moves, "it could easily be in the Cherry Hill area."

"We do plan to stay local," he said.

A subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. of Japan, Subaru came to South Jersey through a pair of Philadelphia entrepreneurs. In 1968, Malcolm Bricklin and Harvey Lamm became the company's first U.S. distributors.

A 1993 Inquirer story described the two this way:

"In 1968, Harvey Lamm and Malcolm Bricklin were living in the same apartment house on City Avenue. Lamm was a 32-year-old college dropout working in his father's furniture and appliance store, and hating it a lot. Bricklin was fresh from a failed franchising scheme in Florida. They met and struck up an acquaintance.

"Presently they heard about an opportunity to import a weird-looking little two-cylinder Japanese car called the Subaru. They scraped together half of the $25,000 they needed to become the exclusive importers . . ."

The company located in Pennsauken, today the site of an operations center with 200 employees.

Bricklin left the firm in its infancy; Lamm left as its chief executive in 1990.

McHale wouldn't comment on whether the company is also considering moving the Pennsauken center.

The assistant economic development director in Pennsauken, Larry Cardwell, said he didn't know what might happen.

"We're still trying to understand ourselves if it does have any impact on us," Cardwell said of the prospect of Subaru's leaving Cherry Hill.

That possibility was raised by Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn as he gave a "State of the Town" address to about 45 people Tuesday morning at a Cherry Hill Chamber of Commerce breakfast event.

"It's no secret that Subaru has talked about moving out of Cherry Hill," Cahn said during the event, held at the Holiday Inn on Route 70.

Cahn said he and the township's director of community development, Paul Stridick, have been meeting with the company to "help them find places in Cherry Hill where they want to be."

The township has also directed Subaru to the state's Economic Development Authority to explore possible financing incentives, Palmer said.

As the township tries to avoid losing Subaru, it has also welcomed new businesses. Cahn, who is entering his second year as mayor, said Tuesday that 82 new businesses have opened in Cherry Hill in the last 12 months.

Township officials said that figure includes both small and large businesses - such as the soon-to-open Lourdes medical facility on Route 70 - and others that have permits but have not yet opened.

Contact Maddie Hanna at 856-779-3232 or

Cherry Hill works to keep Subaru HQ from leaving town

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