Laranzo Dacres, Gleaner Writer
Over a year ago, a group of car enthusiasts banded together to share a common bond: ownership of the Japanese-made boxer engine Subaru and to form the Subaru Owners Club Of Jamaica (SOCOJ).
Today, the club boasts 80 registered members and has more than double that number on its mailing list.
"The club's launch took place at Kingston Industrial Garage (KIG) - local dealers for the Subaru brand - in April of last year," said Kianne Hutchinson, the club's events coordinator and public relations representative.
She said the group's beginning was "a natural progression" as Subaru owners had great respect for other owners of that make of vehicle.
"They tend to flash their headlights in acknowledgement of each other while travelling along the roadway. It's a natural camaraderie, so we chose to formalise the bond because we realised there is strength in numbers. Also, it's cool to hang out with people who share the same love for the vehicles that you do," Hutchinson said.
The PR representative noted that the members' roster comprises young professionals such as doctors, lawyers and racers. In fact, she said doctors make up a significant percentage of the membership of the SOCOJ.
Hutchinson explained that the requirement to become a member is very simple; all prospective members have to own a Subaru vehicle and be responsible drivers.
"We have a few honorary members who do not have Subarus, but possess an overwhelming passion for the brand and are willing to help out in various ways," she said.
An annual contribution of $3,000 is required for club membership. This entitles membership card holders to a number of benefits.
"With this card you are able to get discounts from different partners," said Hutchinson.
Discounts range from 10 to 15 per cent on items from such partners as KIG, King Midas Mufflers, Advantage General Insurance, Jamaica Automotives Associations, Dolly's Detailing, among many others. "Advantage General has a group plan for our members, which offers discounts on car insurance," she continued.
In addition, Hutchinson said there were informal benefits with club members helping each other with car issues and information on where to access parts for Subaru vehicles.
"If we see a Subaru owner in distress on the road, we will lend an helping hand," she said.
Apart from serving the immediate needs of its members, the motoring club has also been involved in a number of charitable projects, such as assisting students with school expenses.
"We pooled together and wrote a cheque to a student who was unable to pay her school expenses," Hutchinson said. "We have organised a car wash and donated the proceeds to persons that were less fortunate."
The members meeting of the SOCOJ often takes the form of a lyme or roll-out bi-monthly gathering held at venues across the island. Also, an executive monthly meeting is held.
For these members, "Subaru is the vehicle of choice because they are very good all-round cars; they are very reliable, comfortable and fast," she added.
But they are encouraged to: "Drive responsibly ... It's the Subbie way!"