While the U.S. automotive landscape has experienced phenomenal upheaval over the past two years, Subaru of America, Inc. has come through like a race car driver managing to avoid a last-lap pileup to reach the finish line.

While others automakers have collapsed financially, been bailed out by the government, closed down divisions and nameplates and/or been forced to reduce their sponsorship portfolios, Subaru has been able to stay the course, particularly regarding the tried and true sponsorship approach it has taken for the past decade.

IEG SR recently spoke with Todd Lawrence, Subaru’s promotions and sponsorship manager, about the current state of the company’s sponsorship program, upcoming partnerships and activation programs, and more. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

IEG SR: It would appear that Subaru has come through the past couple of years in good shape overall and as it relates to your sponsorship activities. Has the economy impacted Subaru’s sponsorships?

Lawrence: We’re fortunate. We have always been a very cost-efficient company, and we make sure that we spend every dollar wisely. Subaru was the top performing auto brand in 2009, and we actually set an all-time sales record.

That makes it difficult to explain to potential partners that our budget has been impacted. It is based on the value of the yen and the yen/dollar exchange rate. That has definitely impacted us and other Japanese manufacturers.

Overall, the economy has greatly impacted the sponsorship world. It has forced sponsors to reevaluate their strategies and properties to rethink their fees and the benefits they offer. On the bright side, it has helped uncover more mutually beneficial options for all parties.

IEG SR: Subaru is well-know for its distinct approach to sponsorship. How would you describe that approach?

Lawrence: We know our customers and we support their passion points. That includes outdoor lifestyle, gardening, pets, healthcare, education and science.

Some examples of our current partnerships include the National Ski Patrol, Professional Ski Instructors of America, Mount Washington Observatory and the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science.

IEG SR: That strategy in the past has helped you sell cars directly through those sponsored properties. Are those positive results continuing?

Lawrence: We leverage our membership-based affiliations with a VIP program that offers a special discount to members.

The healthcare industry is high on our owner list, as employees frequently need a vehicle that can get them where they need to go in any weather condition. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn. is one of our partners in the healthcare space. Last year, for the first time, ASHA led our partners in VIP sales. They surpassed the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the National Ski Patrol, which have typically been on top.

IEG SR: There are many longtime partners in your portfolio like those you just mentioned. Have you signed any new deals recently?

Lawrence: We’re starting a relationship with Pilots N Paws, an organization that links up pilots with animal shelters in need of transportation. They fly animals to areas where they are likely to be adopted, or adoption centers that don’t euthanize pets.

IEG SR: What does that property bring to the marketing table?

Lawrence: Our relationship with The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is going very well, and approximately seven out of ten Subaru owners own a pet.

IEG SR: Any other new programs?

Lawrence: We’re going to try something new with Dining out for Life, an organization that raises funds for HIV and AIDS awareness in cooperation with the restaurant industry.

On April 29, we’re going to work with Village People star Felipe Rose to host the world’s largest virtual dining experience. It’s a social media promotion in which consumers will interact through Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

This is an enhancement to the annual Thursday night dining event that takes place in over 50 cities, where a generous percent of restaurant proceeds will go to help HIV and AIDS awareness. All of the money raised in each community stays in that community, which is unique.

IEG SR: Subaru has expanded its presence in motorsports over the past several years with the introduction of the Impreza WRX STI. What properties do you sponsor in auto racing?

Lawrence: We have the Subaru Rally Team USA, which races in the Rally America National Championships, with drivers Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra. They are also X Games athletes.

We also support the Subaru Road Racing Team, which competes in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. It’s a way for us to showcase our vehicles against the competition.

We are also in the second year sponsoring the New Jersey Motorsports Park, which is a new raceway in the backyard of our corporate headquarters.