By on October 4, 2017

2019 Subaru AScent SUV Concept - Image: SubaruSubaru reported in September 2017 the brand’s 70th consecutive month of year-over-year growth. The growth rate is not modest. Five years ago, Subaru had never reported more than 336,000 U.S. sales in a calendar year. Yet with one-fourth of 2017 remaining, Subaru has already reported 478,848 U.S. sales in 2017 and is on track to sell more than 650,000 vehicles by the end of the year.

Subaru is not, however, without challenges. The rate of sales improvement has not been matched by a commensurate improvement in the dealer network’s ability to service vehicles, for example.

Another issue? Subaru needs to create space for production of its next new vehicle, the three-row Ascent SUV, in Lafayette, Indiana. Subaru already builds its best seller, the Outback, in Indiana, and with the latest generation of the Impreza, the brand’s compact car joined the midsize Legacy as an Indiana-built model, as well.

For the Ascent, which Subaru confirmed is set to begin rolling out of the Indiana plant in the second-quarter of 2018, Subaru has received the necessary permits to increase production by 66 percent compared with the original joint Toyota/Subaru facility. 

2017 Subaru Impreza Indiana Assembly Plant - Image: SubaruUp until May of last year, the Lafayette plant was also responsible for some Toyota Camry production. But the part of the plant that used to be devoted to Toyota now assembles Imprezas, sales of which rose 43 percent through the first three-quarters of 2017. According to Automotive News, Subaru’s U.S. boss Tom Easterday says the switch from Camry to Impreza has “gone really well,” and “was converted quickly.”

Subaru now must alter the plant again to build the company’s biggest vehicle to date. Construction to enlarge the plant on behalf of the Ascent will be completed by the end of 2017. Subaru must also transform the more obvious means by which the Lafayette plant operates: larger carriers and more ergonomic work stations, for instance. Subaru will shift all Outback from the Indiana plant’s A-line to the Impreza/Outback B-line, leaving the Legacy alone with the Ascent on the less voluminous A-line.

With such significant expansion, Automotive News reports that Subaru requires new EPA permits. The Lafayette plant was originally built to handle 310,000 vehicles, though permits allowed Subaru to build 450,000 vehicles in 2016. That allowance rises to 514,000 total vehicles with the Ascent factored in.

Subaru’s expectations for the Ascent are nevertheless modest. Global CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga believes the Ascent will more likely cause current Subaru owners to migrate into the larger vehicle — rather than leave the brand — but won’t likely steal sales from three-row competitors.

Past experience surely means nothing. The last three-row vehicle built by Subaru in Indiana was the Tribeca, a massive failure that accomplished little good for the brand. Since the Tribeca’s departure, Subaru sales in the United States have grown by more than 50 percent.

[Images: Subaru]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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42 Comments on “Subaru Ascent Production Begins in Spring 2018: Work Underway To Squeeze SUV Into Indiana Facility...”


  • avatar

    I have some thoughts:

    -That looks a lot like a Highlander.

    -A vehicle of this size is going to need more than the NA 2.5, and their H 3.6 is not really competitive. What will they do?

    -This will hurt sales of the Outback considerably.

    -Does the Outback revert to a regular wagon, stay the same as sort-of CUV wagon, or go away entirely?

    • 0 avatar
      mojeimeje

      Hopeffully the Outback will not get the same faith as the Venza did when it competed against the Highlander.

      Subaru has a new engine for this car, IIRC it is either 2.4 or 2.5 turbo.

      • 0 avatar

        Well the difference there is that the Outback is a good, competitive vehicle. The Venza wasn’t.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          The Venza was definitely a “good” vehicle, but its’ mission was somewhat fuzzy.

          I dug it, truth be known. Then again, I dug the ZDX. I’d blame that on an acid flashback but I never dropped the stuff.

        • 0 avatar
          Heino

          After 5 Subarus, my wife got a RAV4. Our 2006 Outback needed a head gasket at 80K miles. Followed by bearings, parts of the drive shaft, and the last straw was the Takata airbag recall that took 18 months to fix. My 20 year old 4Runner was more reliable.

          • 0 avatar

            Your last straw with Subaru was something they didn’t cause!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            He forgot to top off the love and the whole car fell apart.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            “My 20 year old 4Runner was more reliable.”

            Duh!

          • 0 avatar
            Heino

            To quote the best band in the world that ever existed:’I am all out of love’ If Subaru simply admitted their mistake on the 2.5L, I would have bought another one. They saved a few hundred dollars, but they have lost me for life. Subaru may love you, but they never follow up. A good one night stand, but it will always end in tears. As opposed to a one night stand where you might marry.

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        I thought the Venza held its own for several years, Toyota just didn’t need it. It’s the Toyota version of Ford Edge — the answer to some Baby Boomer question that nobody asked, and completely cannibalized by almost everything around it.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree it was cannibalized by other Toyota products, but it was too compromised. It didn’t have ride height like a real CUV, nor did it have huge cargo capacity like a wagon. It had a terrible look to it, and a name nobody could relate to.

          I think doing their own Camry Crosstour would’ve been more successful. More wagon shaped, and slap the Camry name on the back.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “nor did it have huge cargo capacity like a wagon”

            Actually it had quite good cargo capacity, deceptively so. One of its few saving graces (that and being available with the venerable 2GR 3.5L V6).

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “That looks a lot like a Highlander.”

      And a Pathfinder. And pretty much every other three row CUV…

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    This will likely be our next vehicle.

  • avatar
    mojeimeje

    SIA should have no problems building this since the plant was originally built to assemble Isuzu SUV’s. They probably still have the carriers that were used by Isuzu.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Solid. Please please please tell me there’s a good H6 going into this. I just don’t have faith in Subie’s 4-cylinder turbo engines yet, at least not for everyday family vehicles where reliability is #1.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      If anything, the older Subaru turbo motors (think 1st gen WRX) were some of their most reliable. They totally avoided the head gasket issues that plagued the 2.5L NA motors. I know by the mid-late 2000s Subaru turbos seemed to take a nosedive in reliability, but I haven’t heard too many horror stories from folks with the current gen FXT Forester (then again, most are pretty new and low mileage).

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Are they still assembling vehicles in the Princeton, Indiana plant? Our ’08 Sienna was built there, and it was (is?) a joint Toyota/Subaru plant.

    • 0 avatar

      According to Wiki, no Subarus are built there at TMMI.

    • 0 avatar
      mojeimeje

      Subaru cars were never built in Princeton.
      This Subaru plant is more north in Lafayette. It was originally built as a joint venture between Subaru and Isuzu in 1989, but Isuzu pulled out of in 2003 or 2004 after which the Camry came in to fill up unused capacity.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        This is why I was confused by the sentence “Subaru has received the necessary permits to increase production by 66 percent compared with the original joint Toyota/Subaru facility.” Did the writer intend to say “the original Subaru/Isuzu facility” circa 1990? Or was there an intermediate expansion when Isuzu left and Subaru started to build Camrys?

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Handsomely generic. Will be a solid money maker. Finally putting the B9 Tribeca memories away.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Yet another toaster on wheels. The excitement is palpable. It isn’t.

  • avatar
    brettc

    So bland. But you know it’ll sell, because Love.

    Long live the Flying Vagina.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I soooo want to slap a “Forester XL” badge on this sucker.

  • avatar
    stuki

    As CUVs go, it doesn’t look bad. Beltline looks lower than what is common, making it less slabsided. It has weirdly long overhangs, though. The front has the overhangs of an FWD, the rear of an RWD (perhaps because it is awd :) ). Making the wheelbase look too short for the size of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “Beltline looks lower than what is common, making it less slabsided.”

      I noticed this as well, I really like it. But look at the lower cladding near the bottoms of the doors. It’s still very much slab-sided, they just managed to hide it a bit better than others.

  • avatar
    Jeremiah Mckenna

    Ah, yes, this reminds me of the Tribeca. Subaru’s attempt at a third row SUV that failed miserably. Why? Mainly because the third row seat was too small for even two small children, and was harder to get into than a man hole.

    I hope they do make it work with this one.
    I am also not so surprised to hear about their sales numbers on the rise. There have been a few articles and stories about how long these cars can last. Actually, some of the longest lasting or highest mileage cars in the States are Subaru. You just have to ignore the “100k mile” coolant life, and change it at every 20-30k mile interval.

  • avatar
    Justice_Gustine

    The name. It can’t be Accent, wasn’t that a Hyundai? So is it assend? Terrible.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    It’s large enough for Subaru to build a Ridgeline competitor from its platform. Though I don’t know if Subaru wants to build another pickup.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Why will this be successful where the Tribeca was a terrible failure?

    I honestly would like to know, because I am frankly shocked that a crossover, from Subaru, a company so on fire selling oddly-styled vehicles, was such a miserable failure.

    Was the Tribeca really bad? Or was it before it was “cool”(?) to have a Subaru?

    I fully expect my part of the PNW to be clogged with these things within the next 2 years, all doing 22mph in a 35mph zone on a road that should probably be posted at 45mph.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      The Tribeca was overpriced, underpowered, undersized, and offensive to behold at a time when Subaru had not courted nearly as much goodwill as it has now. If the Ascent is not priced appropriately, if it’s sized appropriately as the concept suggests, if it’s inoffensive (it appears to be inoffensive) and if Subaru doesn’t experience some unexpected crisis in the next year, it will succeed.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Doesn’t look too bad…I prefer blander like the Atlas because blander ages better than swoopy. Silly name though…Ascent, Accent, Ascender….Subaru should have gone with Breckenridge or K2 or something similar.

    Is this Sorrento sized? Doesn’t look Traverse-sized….

    Also, the next Forrester (2019) is growing slightly in size…length & width. I guess the Outback will remain the “premium tall wagon” model for them.

  • avatar
    ronange

    I’m not sure if this SUV will get my assent. I’ll have to see it first.

  • avatar
    smapdi

    My brain is confused. In profile it looks derp as hell. In offset front views it looks pretty good. Its gotta be the giant flares over the wheels that just make it look ALMOST goofy.


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