By on December 23, 2014

2013 Subaru TribecaTry to conjure up in your memory the Subaru B9 Tribeca’s early days. No, we’re not talking about those TTAC-oriented Tribeca memories – I’m far too new at TTAC to delve into the site’s ancient history. No, think back to when the biggest Subaru crossover was downright common.

Yes, “common” might be a bit of a stretch. But Subaru sold more than 18,000 of these beasts in 2006, the Tribeca’s first full year on the market. (Subaru sold nearly 15,000 Tribecas in the final eight months of 2005, an even healthier sales rate. So yes, the decline began early on.) The B9 Tribeca was America’s 167th-best-selling vehicle in 2006, which doesn’t sound very high, but isn’t very low, either. 134 different nameplates generated fewer sales.

Imagine if in 2014 Subaru was capable of selling the Tribeca at the same rate as some of the crossover’s 2006 cohorts. The Tribeca ranked right alongside the Land Rover Range Rover Sport eight years ago. Had they stayed together, Subaru would be selling 17,000 Tribecas in America in 2014.

Instead, only 723 Tribecas left Subaru dealers between January and November of this year. Cars.com shows only four currently remaining in dealer inventory. Subaru says 30 were sold in November, which represented a massive uptick from the nine sold in October but a 72% decline from November 2013, a 99% drop from the 2129 sold in November 2005.

2129. In November 2005, the Tribeca outsold the whole Jaguar brand, the Suzuki Grand Vitara, the Lexus RX hybrid, the Scion xA, the Pontiac Torrent, the Kia Amanti, the Mazda Tribute, the Mitsubishi Endeavor, the Infiniti FX, the Mercury Mountaineer, and the Range Rover Sport.

Heady times, indeed.

2006 Subaru B9 TribecaBut one year later, Tribeca sales plunged 44%. The decline of the Tribeca has almost always been in effect. Subaru didn’t sell as many in the final eight months of 2006 as they did in the same period of 2005. 2007 sales slid 10%. Tribeca volume then fell 35% in 2008, 46% in 2009, and 58% in 2010. As the market improved 10% in 2011, Tribeca volume improved 13%, but then in 2012 the Tribeca dropped 26% to new lows. Last year, Tribeca sales slid 23%.

Through the first eleven months of 2014, as the defunct Tribeca was cleared out, sales were cut in half. To add insult to injury, and perhaps because of embarrassment, Subaru is no longer including the Tribeca in its monthly sales charts, displaying it instead as a footnote below the vital info. In Subaru’s November results, for example, when the headline read, “Subaru Of America, Inc. Enjoys Best November Ever, Confirms All-Time Sales Record,” the release’s total included a conspicuous asterisk: “Includes 30 Tribeca sales for the month and 723 YTD.”

Subaru-sales-chart-November-2014A decade after B9 Tribeca sales began, the Subaru brand now impresses us with its significant growth month after month after month. As a small automaker with a relatively small product lineup, their ability to sell 43% more autos than VW USA has garnered positive attention. That they’ve produced such growth without any meaningful three-row crossover is especially noteworthy. And it causes one to wonder what they might achieve – what they might already have achieved – with a true Toyota Highlander twin.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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39 Comments on “These Are The Subaru Tribeca’s Dying Days...”


  • avatar
    anti121hero

    So did this rip off the kia borrego styling or vice versa

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Subaru just wasn’t very good at making a three row family hauler and the competition ate their lunch. They’re good at the small/medium economy crossover, their sales prove this. Stick to what you do best

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Hmmmmmm once the controversial styling went away you’d think that the “big Forester” styling would be a hit with Subaru’s customer base.

  • avatar
    Counterpoint

    I have one. I bought it new because in 2010 it was the smallest and cheapest 7-passenger CUV that had excellent safety ratings. But I understand why it didn’t sell well. Most other customers weren’t so focused on that combination on safety and ease of parking in tight spaces. Competitors offered more room, nicer interiors, higher fuel economy, more advanced infotainment.

    Subaru also offers the Exiga 7-passenger CUV in other markets. They don’t import it to North America and it probably isn’t suited for our market.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    My father took a job at a car dealer as a sort of retired guy looking for a job to get some health insurance and a small income as a stop gap until social security kicked in.

    He went through all the training and worked at a Subaru/Ford dealer for two months. During that time he sold one Tribeca, it was his first and only sale. Realizing being a salesman wasn’t for him, he then moved on to working at Home Depot. Good call on his part I think.

  • avatar
    slance66

    We had a 2007. It was bulletproof, and had very nice handling for the class. Transmission was not great, but I liked the boxer 6. Main problem is that the ergonomics were awful. No place to put either elbow, no telescoping steering wheel, very poor front passenger leg room.

  • avatar

    The Tribeca had/has lots of problems: Underpowered (initially), styling too much for some (initially, now very conservative), not very fuel efficient, and principally, not that much space. The 2nd row was crowded, the 3rd row was even more so. Basically, it just wasn’t that good and didn’t do anything the Outback couldn’t do as well or better.

    That said, if they gave it another try there is clearly the willingness to accept a 3-row crossover from Subaru. I expect there are a lot of people pushed out of the Subaru brand once their family gets too big because there simply isn’t an option available.

    Plus, keep in mind, this car is basically the Japanese XC90 now. It’s a decade old, and has seen almost no updates since the facelift in ’08.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    When I was shopping for one of my Outbacks a couple years ago I looked at the B9/Tribeca. By accident as it didn’t seem a whole lot larger than the Outbacks at first glance. A more detailed look inside revealed that the ’92 Mitsubishi Expo SP I owned years ago had more room in all three rows (it was a 7-passenger) than the Tribeca, albeit with a much smaller engine (2.4 liter). I could reasonably fit in the 3rd row of the old Expo – the 3rd row of the Tribeca was a real penalty box in comparison. And the Expo had a 2nd row fore-aft adjustment to enhance legroom. I’m not sure who talked Fuji Heavy Industries into producing the Tribeca – maybe they needed a loss-leader for some reason….

    • 0 avatar
      Counterpoint

      GM talked FHI into the Tribeca (B9) back when they owned a minority stake. They wanted a vehicle that could also be sold as a badge engineered Saab. Before that plan came to fruition GM sold their stakes in FHI and Saab.

      Tribeca also has a 2nd row fore-aft adjustment. When the 3rd row isn’t used, the 2nd row has good legroom; large adults fit just fine.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    I’ve mentioned it before, but I sell Subaru.

    My dealership has not had a Tribeca on the lot to sell in a number of years. We are relatively high volume dealer. The only 2 I can remember in the last few years were ordered for people who were trading in an older Tribeca.
    The thing is-people who seem to be most interested in one show up with either a Minivan, or perhaps a Suburban. Most of the time it seems these people had a Subaru before they had to upsize to a van etc. and think-oh, well now that kids are a little older we can go back to a Subaru-they have a 3rd row now. It is just not set up for that kind of duty. Cost wise you can get a larger 3rd row with AWD for the same or less money (Ex-Traverse).
    And if you don’t need a 3rd row-the Outback is within inches in size of the Tribeca, costs less money, gets better fuel mileage etc. Not to mention it has been updated several times in the last decade.

  • avatar
    Toad

    You can spend hours analyzing the Tribeca’s poor sales, but I think the answer is very simple: it is undeniably ugly. Not kind of unattractive, not OK looking in the right light, not “it grows on you,” but just not good looking in any way at all.

    Subaru owners are a pretty practical group as a whole but everybody wants their new car to be somewhat good looking, and the Tribeca was/is not.

    Surely Subaru did some marketing studies to figure out why the Tribeca was not selling well; they could also ask any Subaru salesperson or dealer principal. Customers don’t buy ugly. A little design work and retooling the sheet metal and Subaru could have a good seller, but that didn’t happen.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The ugly was one problem, but the interior was another. They didn’t have enough interior room for a three-row crossover and the layout was challenged as well. Just new styling alone wouldn’t be enough to fix it.

      It’s very odd from the same company that produces the Forester, which is the best-packaged two-row CUV on the market.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      A sales person insisted my wife look at one while I was waiting for a recall replacement fan relay. My other half is nice and didn’t want me to be mean, so I coined the term “cosmetically challenged”. The sales person said that was the nicest thing anyone had said about the Flying V all week. I got a cramp trying not to laugh.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I hope they try again, with more interior room and less ugly. I think there’s a large market that would really like a good Subaru seven-seater. But they need an updated H6 engine with around 280 hp to compete in this segment. If they are really going to an all-four engine lineup, then they will have a hard time competing here unless they come up with some unexpected hybrid wizardry a la Volvo.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Sweet Jesus. Thought I was looking at a Kia Borrego.

    “You’re going down Subie!!!!”

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The restyle certainly took away some of the “funky” look…

    The interior was not very efficient; also it had poor mpgs. What Subaru needs to do is make a mini-mini-van, Mazda MPV sized with AWD, a strong 4 cylinder and 25-35 mpg.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    A true Subaru (mini)van competitive with, for example, the Odyssey but offering AWD would certainly sell. I have a sibling with too many kids for a two-row vehicle who has an Odyssey now, used to have a Forester (2000), and would buy a Subaru (mini)van in a minute.

    All Subaru has to do is create a dedicated vehicle platform. The Tribeca is (was) based on Legacy/Outback underpinnings and made on the same assembly line in Indiana, and this all by itself prohibits a competitively large passenger compartment.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I think Toyota may have her AWD Odessey replacement ready. It’s not cheap’ but everyone I know who has one with a working tranny loves it. And the one who replaced the transmission figured the car deserved the repair. I’ve only got one kid, so I’ll let others suffer in 3 row mobile rooms.

  • avatar

    Ah! B9. Your wings helped to lift RF to a better place. Long am I a Subaru fan but, truth be told, Mr. Farago was right.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “These are the Subaru Tribeca’s dying days”

    I thought those started the first day they landed on dealer lots over eight years ago. This vehicle seems like a poorly-planned, poorly-executed, and poorly-supported endeavor from day one.

    I know two people who have owned one; the first ditched it within a year when the transmission exploded on them several hundred miles from home, the second likely bought it because they just are partial to Subarus.

    I didn’t even know they still “sold” the Tribeca, I thought it left the market a few years ago.

  • avatar

    We have a 2007 Tribeca that we purchased in Dec 2006. It is my wife’s car and she absolutely loves it. When our boys were younger, and much smaller, we did use the 3rd row a few times (mostly to and from soccer, basketball, etc) when we needed to haul their friends. With the 3rd row folded, and the middle seat fully to the rear, there is plenty of leg room in the 2nd row. She will be in the market for a new car in a year or so. Without the Tribeca, or similar, available from Subaru we will likely move to another maker. She likes the wider stance of the Tribeca and thinks the Outback feels too cramped. I hope Subaru comes out with a competitive replacement.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    I kind of liked the Tribeca until they gave it a so-called facelift. Those bug eyes suited it well but Subaru made one of their strange moves. The boxer 6 engine was superb and mated to their excellent AWD system. But I never understood the front HVAC vents that couldnt be adjusted…

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