Chart Of The Day: Subaru Vs. Volkswagen

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
chart of the day subaru vs volkswagen

It’s not a brand new thing, this Subaru-besting-Volkswagen trend. But when Subaru outsold the Volkswagen brand in the United States in 2009 and 2010, Subaru was on a rapid upswing despite the market’s sharp decline, and all auto sales results were thought to be skewed by the recession.

Year-over-year, Volkswagen volume shot up 26% in calendar year 2011 and 35% in 2012, a 113,731-unit increase. But 2013 volume fell 7%, and though the total number of sales was still far higher than anything Volkswagen had recently achieved, 2012 aside, there was cause for concern. Volkswagen’s new Passat, which, when 14,462 were sold in late December 2012 looked to have potential, slid 6% in a slowly growing midsize market. Volkswagen’s next big launch was to be the Golf, a car which, in America, simply didn’t have the potential for restore-the-brand volume that the Jetta and Passat sedans possess, or were thought to posess.

So here we are, with Subaru having reported its highest monthly U.S. sales total ever in August and Volkswagen having reported 17 consecutive year-over-year declines. Not all of the products marketed by these two brands in the United States are necessarily direct rivals, but they are both seen by many of their own buyers as slightly upmarket mainstream brands: Subaru arrived at this point after, until recently, fostering a niche status, while Volkswagen has consistently played on its German heritage.

The contradictions are obvious. Subaru is a tiny, part-Toyota-owned Japanese automaker. Volkswagen is the headline brand for the world’s second-largest automaker. The average margin of Subaru’s “victories” over Volkswagen during the last four months has been 13,693 units.

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  • Genuineleather Genuineleather on Sep 21, 2014

    Subaru perfectly demonstrates a company that identifies it's value proposition sticks to it. Subie buyers aren't in it for looks, dynamic performance, plush interiors, or sex appeal, so Subaru doesn't give it to them. Instead, they deliver competent, AWD wagons at mainstream price. Unless you want to spend $50k on an Allroad/3 or $65k on an E, you don't really have any other options. That said, I do think Subie is leaving plenty of cash on the table by not offering a Denali-type trim. Name it after a ski town, slather the dash in leather, swap out the grille insert, stick on a pretty set of wheels and add $5k; plenty of ex-Swede buyers would bite.

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    • DeadWeight DeadWeight on Sep 22, 2014

      @Lorenzo It was replace by the Subaru Lululemon Edition, tragically. *Subaru is to unveil a rugged Northface edition Outback.

  • Variant Variant on Sep 21, 2014

    Judging solely by the number of TDI Sportwagens I see on the road here in northern VT, VW could substantially close that gap if they would bring over a 4motion variant. Full disclosure: I just put a 2.5 S gasser in my garage to replace a (largely trouble-free) B5.5 1.8t Passat wagon, so I'm a bit of a VW homer/apologist. Before you ask, I didn't go the TDI route because my 5 mile commute doesn't justify the price premium, and I wanted the least expensive stop-gap anticipating a 4motion version will be available in three years. P.S. If Jack wants to come drive it and give his unvarnished opinion of the poverty spec Sportwagen before new model comes out, the offer is open. It's quite lovely in Vermont this time of year.

  • Macmcmacmac Macmcmacmac on Sep 21, 2014

    Excellent comparison, as it seems like every douchebag who tailgates me on an onramp and blows by me like his hair is on fire is usually driving German or a Subaru.

  • GaryM GaryM on Sep 22, 2014

    It was a happy day when I traded my '05 Outback XT for a '11 VW Tiguan SE. The Tiguan is a far more comfortable car, much more fun to drive and is much better in the snow than the Outback. Maintenance has been about equal for both. The '10-'14 Outback was a dog to drive and horrible to look at. Yet for some reason, Outback's have become the new Volvo wagon for the middle class.

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    • Turbolove Turbolove on Sep 23, 2014

      The 2012 Forester would go tail out while turning at intersections and would slide all over the place with 17K miles on the clock. I'm not that impressed with it either.