By on January 7, 2015

RSide

2014 was a banner year for Subaru. The Japanese auto maker sold a record 500,000 units in the United States. Capacity is bursting at the seams – Subaru simply cannot meet demand without their upcoming expansion at their Indiana plant, and they had to kick the Toyota Camry out just to be able to build more cars. One industry source told us that in terms of pure retail sales (fleet, daily rental etc excluded) Subaru beat Hyundai – who would have imagined that even 5 years ago.

Subaru’s lineup is also more “boring” than ever. There are no more manual Outbacks, no more WRX hatchbacks, no turbocharged Legacy models, no more pure wagons. In short, none of the products that make enthusiasts adore the brand. I don’t think it matters.

Outside of a small pocket of New England states, Subaru has perennially struggled to gain a proper foothold in the marketplace. In the epilogue to the seminal marketing book Where The Suckers Moon, the author notes that after a repeated series of mis-steps in terms of both product and marketing, Subaru finally scored a hit with the Outback – in 1995.

It’s taken roughly another 15 years for their lineup of visually bland, mechanically quirky all-wheel drive cars to gain serious traction (no pun intended) outside of the Yankees-and-alternative-lifestyle crowd, and be taken seriously as a mainstream alternative to the Camcords and EsCR-V’s.

The big winners in 2014, in terms of sales were products that were designed to broaden the brand’s appeal to American consumers: the Impreza, Forester, Crosstrek and Outback, which have all undergone some form of commodification to scrub performance variants, manual transmissions and other idiosyncrasies from their lineup. Sales of the Forester were up 29 percent, the Outback up 18. Even the Legacy, the car which has arguably lost most of what once made it cool (turbo engines, stick shifts, wagons) is up 24 percent. Even the new WRX and STI posted a 42 percent gain in sales, despite not having the beloved hatchback body style. The big losers are the low volume BRZ and the aging Tribeca.

Clearly, the new direction is working. Part of that comes down to Subaru’s shrewd positioning in the post-recession era, where its relatively quirky image, standard all-wheel drive, safety-focused marketing campaigns and competitive prices made it attractive not just to consumers who may have bought a mainstream brand, but those who wanted something off-beat, but no longer saw the value in a foreign luxury brand. My parents are a good example of this. They now have a Volvo XC60 T6, but won’t be buying another one, thanks to a series of price increases by Volvo. The new Outback is high on their list. Are they upset about the demise of the turbo engines? No, but not for reasons you think. Says Mum: “We had a GL 10 Turbo and loved it. But when the turbo died, we sold it. It will be nice not to have to worry about that anymore.” Yes, the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but last year alone gave us half a million data points to examine. Pretty convincing numbers if you ask me.

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

141 Comments on “Editorial: Subaru Is Proof That Boring Sells...”


  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Positioning, positioning, positioning!

    Suddenly there’s a glut of manufacturers at the very high end, leaving a void in the middle. The big loser being Volvo who continue to price at German levels but are simply not in that game.

    My wife and i are both professionals, currently sitting in a 9-3 wagon and am eyeing a replacement in a few years. i want the XC60 or the XC70 but a LOADED Outback is some $10 to $15K less than these vehicles.

    With VW going down market and Infiniti/Acura/Volvo still pushing up market, there’s ni middle ground so people buy subaru.

    • 0 avatar

      To get into the same XC60 as my parents got in 2010 is over $10k more in 3 years. Outrageous. They love the car but that is way too much money.

      • 0 avatar
        Alfisti

        And they were too expensive to begin with. I have been harassing them on twitter for months saying why does a Q5 outsell your XC60 at 3:1 ….. they cannot answer the question so i say price. They disagree saying it’s just as good as a Q5, i say the market doesn’t think so and they go quiet.

        Rinse and repeat every month or so.

        • 0 avatar

          To be fair, the XC60 is as good as the Q5 in tests…but since Volvo lacks *some* of the cachet of Audi, it isn’t worth as much to the consumer. Volvo just doesn’t want to admit that.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Depends what you need it for. I’d buy the Q5 over the XC60 for the better AWD system alone.

          • 0 avatar

            That’s true…although Volvo’s system is better than many (the CRV/RDX system for example). Still, the interior and fittings are, I would say, nicer than Q5.

      • 0 avatar
        ItsMeMartin

        I feel you, the situation is just the same in Poland. Since I’m the car guy in the family, I am currently helping my father decide on his next car. 5 years ago he bought a new, relatively loaded XC90 for the equivalent of 56K dollars. He was pretty much decided on the new XC90 until he saw the prices. It turns out that the base gas AWD XC90 will set him back 72K, and if he wanted to upgrade to the trim level that he previously had (2nd highest, R-design notwithstanding), he would be looking at 80K!
        I know that a part of the increase is the early adopter premium, and I can understand that the development costs of the previous-gen XC90 were already amortized by 2010, but even that (+inflation) cannot justify an increase in price of over 30%. And when a loyal customer who could afford a ’10 XC90 with some cash to spare is cons1dering a Ford or a Kia for his next purchase, you should know that you’re pricing yourself out of the market.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        I think some of that is the fact that you’re in Canada though where the CAD has dropped a lot in value over the last 3 years. The prices definitely haven’t gone up that much elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky

      At the same time I owned both a 2008 XC70 and a 2010 Outback. There is a world of difference between the two vehicles. And one gets what one pays for. Volvos, per my recollection, have always had a price tag that, at first glance, appears to be mismatched with the value offered. This was the case with the 240 series up until today (per my recollection, anyway). My specific experiences suggest that until one has the opportunity to compare (over the course of many years, the Volvo ownership experience versus other vehicles) one does not realize what one is paying for. It is, unfortunately, the high price tag that appears to be deterring many folks from purchasing Volvos. I was deterred by price when I purchased an Outback instead of an XC60. I have, since then, returned to a Volvo. But, since Volvo USA sales continue to drop off, I know that I am in the minority. I suspect that in the not too distant future, unless Volvo begins to offer a lower price alternative in the USA, maybe for example, something smaller with an available manual transmission, Volvo sales may continue to drop off into nonexistence.

      • 0 avatar
        Alfisti

        Can you elaborate please.

        • 0 avatar
          warriorfred

          I’ll take a shot at this as my wife and I have owned both Volvos and Subarus. In fact, we primarily cross shop against the two brands. We owned a Forester and a Legacy, but our last two (2) purchases have been Volvo xc70s. Why: (i) Volvo has better fit and finish, (ii) Volvo has better interiors (we actually looked at a 5 series wagon – remember those – and thought the Volvo had a nicer interior), (iii) reliability has been the same; (iv) Volvo has the best seats and a better ride (and after a 16 hour drive part-way across country in a Forester, I said never again – the same drive in a xc70 was a comparable breeze); and (v) gas mileage is a wash. It didn’t hurt that we received a screaming deal on our last Volvo, and the Subaru dealer was less than impressive (“we have great demand and won’t deal on the price, but let me call you every day for a week trying to negotiate a new price”).

          Interesting note, I spent Christmas driving my father-in-law’s Outback around town, and it confirmed that the xc70 is hands-down a better car. Outback = “What a Buick Should Be.” Which is probably why my father-in-law bought it.

          Last winter, I drove the xc60 and the Forester back-to-back, and then played around in a BMW X3 (with said father-in-law). Neither of us could justify the BMW price, and the Forester was not up to the Volvo level.

          But there is a price point and the Forester is easily $10,000 less than the xc60 . . . I would never begrudge someone for buying a Subaru (it is a good value proposition), but to intimate it equals a Volvo is just wrong. But it is $10,000 less . . . which makes it a close call, and I will probably buy another Subaru at some point.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Now that Subaru has built a presence and reputation (thanks to their enthusiast flag wavers), they’re free to abandon them for greener mass market pastures.

    • 0 avatar
      EvilEdHarris

      I cannot agree more. It would be nice if Subaru would eventually throw a bone back to the enthusiasts with a quirkly low volume model (not the BRZ) that is true to their roots… I’m thinking something like the SVX but not a total failure.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Slow and steady wins the race” Subaru is proving that more and more, but why are they moving their headquarters to Camden? Ugh!

  • avatar
    TorontoSkeptic

    I am squarely in the Forester/Outback demographic – 30-something families with kids who want to only own one car. I know quite a few neighbors and acquaintances who have these and seem very happy, the only threat being the 3rd kid and subsequent minivan purchase.

    I think the point about Volvo is spot on. In theory all these people are “Volvo types,” educated urbanites who know domestic cars are vulgar and unreliable but a Mercedes is too ostentatious. These are not the types who will buy an Escalade or a Land Cruiser, quite the opposite, they want something low-key.

    However there isn’t really that much for them to buy among the European competition that makes sense financially or practically. In the past I guess they would have bought Volkswagons?

    The Forester/Outback is really competing with things like the CR-V/Santa Fe and while it’s not going toe-to-toe in volume, they have found a good niche.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      This, especially the ostentatious part.

      it’s like no one makes a car I want to buy. So, i won’t. Decided to re-invest in the Saab and see what plays out over the next few years.

      • 0 avatar

        Volvo makes a car I want to buy (the XC70 T6…just drove another on the weekend…really like it). But they make it for $10,000 too much.

        • 0 avatar
          salhany

          The XC70 T6 was the car I wanted to buy to. So I did….pre-owned CPO. There’s your 10K off (mine was closer to $13K off, but you get the idea).

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            Yep, same way a Volvo C30 became the wife’s car. New = forget / used = sign me up.

            As other replies down the page indicate: Subbie has become the new Volvo – safe, slightly different but affordable. There is no more Saab so Subaru gains a few more customers from that group. Subaru’s main competition these days is VW but they lack AWD choices, so score another Subbie sale in places where snow is a possibility. Remember the Polar Vortex last year and those drivers stranded in Atlanta? I wonder how many minds suddenly thought “having AWD might be a good idea”.

      • 0 avatar
        TorontoSkeptic

        It’s a pickle. I’m in the same situation (professional couple) and if you don’t want any of the millions of crossovers.. where do you go?! I’m done with compact hatches for various reasons, want something a bit bigger and nicer, and the cupboard is bare. Coupes are not realistic. Neither are convertibles. A truck would be pointless.

        I would actually consider the (dying) full size sedan, but even that is tough. I have driven the new Impala and my wife was NOT impressed with the fake wood/fake leather/crappy touchscreen combination. My mechanic has given stern warnings against getting a Maxima. A Cadenza could be nice… but let’s think about resale value shall we?

        I’m seriously considering either a used CTS, a Chrysler 200 or a nicely trimmed Optima. I mean what else is there?

        PS Deadweight feel free to tell me what a piece of junk the last-gen CTS is, I probably need someone to talk me out of it anyway.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I think this is a story of a company that finally got all the pieces right: they have the right product, the right price – and importantly, the right marketing.

    I’ve said before that Subaru seems to have co-opted Volkswagen’s mid 90s – mid ’00s marketing and messaging and what I think they’ve been able to successfully siphon off the last of the Saab and Volvo buyers, as well as take away a large segment of erstwhile Volkswagen buyers.

    Subaru has managed to do what Volkswagen used to do before it changed its marketing and alienated a whole generation of buyers with subpar quality and a rotten dealership experience: Subaru connected with its target market. They’ve developed an outstanding lifestyle brand that people can associate with: active lifestyles, a product that will cover you through all of life’s phases, reliable old friend, etc.

    Whether the reality matches the messaging is a irrelevant at the moment – it seems to be sticking with consumers.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      “Love. It’s a Subaru.” Just hearing that tagline on a commercial makes me love my DVR and the ability it gives me to fast forward through that kind of idiotic marketing.

      Subaru cars are fine and seem to make their owners very happy. But the smugness of the marketing is beyond annoying.

      • 0 avatar
        DeeDub

        Those commercials remind me of the Simpsons episode where the greeting card industry invents “Love Day” to sell more cards in the holiday-free summer months.

      • 0 avatar

        Their ‘They Lived’ campaign was way better.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Toad,

        While I don’t much care for their slogan, I don’t find the “Love” campaign offensive. I think they really have done a stellar job though with their lifestyle ad campaigns (mom + hockey kids, young man + labrador going through life’s stages, etc.). Essentially says that your Subaru will be with you through all those familiar life journeys (and, just so happens that the people on those hiking/hockey/dog/family vacations used to drive Volvos and VWs)…..

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      I agree with hreardon. The product has grown some to fit the various segments in a more conventional manner, but the marketing and messaging is by far the biggest adjustment Subaru has made. They’ve been sold on forming an emotional connection as job one in their ads, and it works. What I noticed regarding the VW example is that they did the exact same thing with that Darth Vader superbowl spot, but then seemed to back away from that type of commercial pretty quickly, despite it’s obvious success. I remain baffled by that decision. Running fatherhood PSA’s instead of brand touts seems to be an effective tactic, and I think we’ll see a whole lot more of it in the near future.

      As to Derek’s point. No, loosing manual transmission customers doesn’t hurt in the short term. It isn’t a positive thing long term however, and the only reason this is happening is that the brand is relatively low volume and independent enough to be cash strapped. Subaru has always suffered from this dynamic, never really having competitive transmission and engine designs, but the past penalty was reliability and a slight feeling of out-of-dateness, not purchase choice. After all, there’s no free lunch and they put AWD in everything, so the rest of the drive-train has to give a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        So why can’t we have the stick-shift Legacys and Outbacks still offered in Canada? They’re made in Indiana, aren’t they?

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        tedward,

        Bingo. Back in the day Subaru attracted two types: engineers and environmentalists. While Paul Hogan gave them some spotlight with his Crocodile Dundee schtick, it was ’99-’00 when the Outback really took off with a complete redesign and focus on an interior that didn’t feel like you were driving a spartan econobox.

        I also agree with you on VW’s moves in advertising. Their best work was that which was lifestyle based: the MK IV Jetta “in sync” ad, driving through New Orleans, the Jetta “late” ad rushing to the wedding, the outstanding “blue moon” Cabrio ad from circa 2000 and of course the Passat Darth Vader ad. In each of those campaigns viewers could picture themselves in those scenarios. That’s the key to good advertising (IMO): when you feel connected.

        I’d say that Subaru has nailed the milennial-cum-hipster “authentic” vibe and I think that’s one of the reasons why they have really struck a chord with the 20-30 something crowd.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          It’s not just a vibe (although they’ve done a good job with that). The core product, which I’d define as Outback, Forester, and Crosstrek, really is “authentic” in a way people like. It plays to its strengths (packaging, soft-roading, winter weather, durability, good pricing) and doesn’t try to be something it’s not (blingy, luxurious, exclusive, cutting-edge).

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            This is something I’ve said all along Subaru knows it’s market and for the most part builds cars for and advertises to that market. So, how does Subaru expand market share with such a narrow focus? It doesn’t, the segment attracts newcomers and thus it itself expands. Who doesn’t want to see themselves as young, educated, responsible slightly outdoorsy and adventuresome? Subaru doesn’t have to look to expand it’s customer base, it’s customer base does the expanding, brilliant!

            There is a downs1de because of this, Subaru trims it’s offerings to six variations of two cars and risks becoming the accused dullard

  • avatar
    ldl20

    Having just recently delivery of a 2.5 Outback Limited here in Bergen County, NJ, here’s my anecdote regarding why I went with a “boring” car:

    Not being a fan of SUVs/Trucks, and enjoying the usefulness of a hatchback/wagon, and not wanting to spend a small fortune, I thought I would give the Outback a 2nd try (wife had a 2011 that she was not too thrilled with). This car is mine, though, and after squeezing my 6’3″ frame into a Mazda6 wagon for several years, I just wanted something more comfortable and more reliable (the 6 had some trans issues). Maybe I’ve had enough fun with the GLI, GTI, Protege5s I’ve had within the last 10 years, or maybe turning 40 soon has given me a different outlook on what’s most important, but the combination of up-to-date tech and features, good fuel economy, easy ingress/egress, space for my frame without having to drive a much bigger car, and improvements over the 2011 led me to the Outback.

    Taken as a whole, it’s a compelling package. And, if that means I’m boring, I’m O.K. with that…..at least it’s not a beige Camry!

    • 0 avatar
      TorontoSkeptic

      It’s TTAC, all cars are boring. :) Just in the past week I think we’ve ripped Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Scion, Cadillac and god knows who else for being hopelessly lame and mainstream.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      So, how do you like it?

      • 0 avatar
        ldl20

        It’s only been a week or so, but this time I bought a loaded Limited instead of a Premium, and it feels much more upscale inside. I like that the looks harken back a bit to the 05-09 versions, and with my long legs, I was happy that it’s grown in size. My sister has an ’05 that I cannot drive comfortably for any amount of time.

        What else? While I would prefer a normal 6AT, the CVT is fine…it makes you drive more relaxed, but when I need to move, it certainly has more pep than the 2011 version.

      • 0 avatar
        ldl20

        Comment eaten up, Take 2: It’s only been a week, but this time I purchased a loaded Limited instead of a Premium, so it feels much nicer inside. With my long legs, I like the fact that it has grown in size (my sister has an 05 that is much too tight for me to drive for any amount of time), and that it’s looks have improved.

        And, while I would prefer a normal 6AT, the CVT is fine, and it certainly has more pep when i really need to move, as compared to the 2011.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      You basically echo my thoughts (and age) but i will add one thing, they need better engines. I’d too go for the Limited but would get the 6 as i just cannot handle these 2.5 litre 4 pots after driving the outstanding Saab/GM 2T. I just miss the torque.

      But yeah, on paper, the H6 is not too much to get excited about and is well below the performance of peers. Subie need an engine partner, need one quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        ldl20

        Agreed..give me the 2.0T from the GTI (sans DSG maladies), or the Forester Turbo, and it would be perfect.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Yeah, I am looking at sport wagons.

        If they made a WRX wagon (this year), or something equivalent, they’d have at least gotten a test drive from me.

        But their H6 is … not interesting. It’s not even interesting compared to the T4 in the Allroad.

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        A co-worker recently traded her older Saab convertible for an Outback with the 2.5, because AWD and not being 12 years old. But her response when she was asked how she liked the Subie? “Boring and underpowered”. But I guess she’ll get used to it.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          She’ll get used to it. I have the 2.5 Limited…I’ve really grown to love this thing (CVT included). This weekend for the first time in 18-month ownership I finally took it on some off-road national park service trails – had a blast!

          Needless to say it’s confident nature on wet roads and highways is what hooked me. The lack of torque hasn’t negatively impacted me in a daily commute that ranges from stop-and-go to 80 mph highway entrance merge opportunities.

          But yes, it’s not my 9-4 Aero 2.0 turbo….

          • 0 avatar
            Alfisti

            That’s three ex-saabies who own a new Outback Limited or would if they had to buy a car tomorrow.

            Volvo are doing something VERY wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      jkk6

      In Bergen county, if you chose anything German it would’ve been so keeping up with the Jones’s. Subaru IS the more exciting choice haha.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’m a happy SH Forester owner. Here are the reasons I like it:

    – Excellent packaging. More volume and passenger room than most compact CUVs.
    – Full-time AWD is more satisfying in mountain snow than the basic Haldex systems offered in most of the compact CUV competition.
    – Relatively low COG for a CUV, light weight (3400 lbs.), and decent suspension design means competent handling.
    – Turbo power is good, and works well at altitude.

    For what this car does, it doesn’t need to be a rocket sled or a quirky enthusiast’s dream. If I want kicks I can fire up my manual G8 GXP and go roar around the neighborhood. The Subie works perfectly for the uses we need it for.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Of course boring sells. The Camry is the ultimate proof of this.

    It just won’t sell to me. Luckily there are still a few interesting alternatives out there for new cars, and an infinite variety of used ones.

    Though I really would not count the XV Crosstrek as exactly boring – that thing is downright odd. Especially in orange.

    • 0 avatar
      TorontoSkeptic

      I was going to say the same thing about the Impreza. Show me another mainstream compact hatch with full-time AWD. It’s an oddball in the market and does … OK. Let’s not overstate this amazing success.

      I just checked Tim’s site for compact sales in Canada. The Impreza is 11th in the compact rankings, ahead of only the Dart, Lancer and the Verano/ILX which are not really “normal” compacts.

      However the Impreza is up year-over-year while many of the other mainstream entries (Elantra, Focus, Golf, Dart) are down.

      http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2014/12/canada-small-car-sales-figures-november-2014-ytd.html#more

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The Outback and Forester, not the Impreza, Legacy, or WRX, are driving the sustained growth. The CUV is slowly taking over as the default car and Subaru’s CUVs offer some nice advantages.

    • 0 avatar
      STRATOS

      Maybe the public has found a renewed interest in the boxer engine,but not when its in the BRZ.They may view it as a tough commercial duty type engine, well suited for off road adventures.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I’m in Seattle where pretty much everyone owns a Forester, and their dog also owns an old beat-up Outback. I’m guessing 5% of them even know what a boxer engine is. People buy them for AWD, AWD, AWD, high ground clearance, good packaging, and durability.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          That’s just it, they don’t know it’s what they see everyone else driving around in, so they want, it’s the same with most cars

        • 0 avatar
          onyxtape

          In the Seattle metro market, people shop for AWD almost first and foremost (we don’t salt or roads here, remember?) And Subaru is synonymous with AWD.

          This effect spills over to other makers as well. I have an Infiniti G37, and I’m the oddball because I’m pretty much the only one around here without the AWD version (G37x) and mine was the lonely RWD one sitting on the dealer’s lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Basically what I would say, it’s the lowest common denominator that sells to the masses. Most people don’t like driving or care about cars and that’s fine.

      On a side note pop music http://mic.com/articles/107896/scientists-finally-prove-why-pop-music-all-sounds-the-same Again the reason is it sells the most.

    • 0 avatar
      Wraith

      “Though I really would not count the XV Crosstrek as exactly boring – that thing is downright odd. Especially in orange.”

      Also available in Yellow: http://www.subaru.com/2015-xv-crosstrek-special-edition.html

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Being kind of odd is Subaru’s legacy. It’s funny, I find the XV the most compelling in the whole line-up, because to me the XV is a traditional oddball Subaru

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          If only they’d put the 2.5 in the XV it would be an entertaining little weird thing.

          As is it’s just a severely underpowered little weird thing.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Honestly, if there were something in the XV around the 200hp range, I’d find it hard to come up with a reason not to buy it. I have even thought of the hybrid for no other reason except the added hp and torque, but it’s a lot more money for that small a return

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            An XV XT would be boss.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Interesting .

    My Son loves his Subi wagons , AWD turbos , modified beyond belief but still makes a decent daily driver if you don’t mind the stiff ride .

    I wonder if they’re going to chase Toyota’s cheap car lineup next ? .

    -Nate

  • avatar

    I was thinking the same thing about Subarus increasing success as its cars got worse (to me). I have a 2012 Legacy GT Turbo wagon and was recently told that the new ’15 model range will drop the wagon from the lineup.

    So thatsme out at replacement time.

    Options will be Audi S4 / RS4 at double the price or the smaller Golf R wagon

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Clearly you aren’t in the US. The Legacy Wagon died in 2006 here. Just happened that I got my first real job and was ready to buy in 2006. No wagon, no deal.* Ended up skipping out on the 2007 WRX wagon because of some dumb packaging — a white exterior limited meant I would have to get tan inside. Nope. After 8 years and 2 Imprezas of being a Subaru disciple, I moved on to another brand. They finally got my business back this year, but it doesn’t have a Subaru badge on the hood. If they brought the Levorg with a proper 2.0T and 6MT, I’d have another Subaru badged vehicle in my driveway. Their recent move to CVTs squashed my desire to have a Subaru as a family car, too.

      *This turned out to be a blessing. My best friend has a 2005 Legacy turbo sedan that ate the turbo at 80k miles and my brother’s departed 2005 Outback turbo was simply a poorly built vehicle.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Every day they bash either Toyota or Subaru, now wonder they despise the joint venture known as FRS/BRZ so much!

  • avatar
    George B

    Is Subaru’s success simply a case of the CUV becoming a larger part of the automotive market and Subaru having a long history building tall unibody station wagons? If I wanted a CUV with AWD, I’d at least test drive a Forrester and/or Outback.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      This is the answer. Subaru picked a niche (perhaps out of necessity more than brilliance), did well with it, and has been in the right place at the right time when it began to grow.

      The pitch to the suburban outdoorsy crowd is somewhat reminiscent of the marketing of compact pickups back in the 70s and 80s. I suspect that the demographic that would have once bought a Datsun pickup has moved over to the Subaru dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        The North Face jacket of cars? Tells everyone you are outdoorsy even if you aren’t?

        My wife and I went to Disney a few years back and I couldn’t help but chuckle at all the families completely outfitted in North Face fleece jackets. Gotta get some expensive outdoors gear for Expedition Everest.

      • 0 avatar

        Anecdote: my non-car-person cousin and her husband, whose previous car was a 1993 BMW 3 series convertible, which I believe has well less than 100k, just bought a Forester (which to my mind, at least, is a station wagon).

        They are Manhattanites with a country house who wanted an SUV/CUV for easy access to the toddler’s seat. He wanted fun to drive (albeit with a slushbox) and some cachet, they didn’t want to spend a huge amount, they wanted reliability, AWD, safety. They shopped it against the Mazda CUV, used BMW SUVs (3, maybe 5), and a few others. He apparently thought it drove very well.

        What bothers me the most about the trend is the loss of stick shifts.

        • 0 avatar
          fendertweed

          Having driven numerous Foresters over the years including present version (never owned one) and owning an ’09 Outback, I can say the Forester is definitely not a wagon (IMO), it is clearly on the other side of that line, which is why I chose the Outback (and why I chose the ’09 end of year OB I bought vs. the then-new ’10 OB which felt bloated and wallowy.

          They’ve now tightened up the Outback and the ’15 seems improved so it may be in the running if I look to change during this model iteration. Almost handed the ’09 to my wife when we got rid of her ’05 Matrix XRS, being fed up with Toyota’s massively crap response to the airbag issue (failure to recall clearly defective & dangerous parts) — but she decided she wanted something smaller.

          To my surprise we (she) drove a ’14 Impreza Sport (manual 5 spd) and liked it and we both thought it was a far superior car to the ’05 Matrix…

          Anyway … Forester does not = wagon IMO/IME.

        • 0 avatar
          fendertweed

          I’ve driven a lot of wagons (and owned Audis & SAABs) and a few Foresters and I wouldn’t put the Forester in the wagon camp at all.

          It is markedly truck-like in handling, feel, &c., compared to the wagons, including the ’09 Outback Limited that’s the 1st Subaru I’ve owned, and the current ’15 Outback, which seems much better than the ’10-14 version that I rejected vs. the year-end ’09 that I bought.

          The 2nd Subaru we’ve owned is the ’14 Impreza Sport we just got for my wife, who got lucky and found the only 5-speed manual in stock anywhere near us…

          On one hand choice is nice but OTOH I’ve found that auto trannies we’ve owned over the past 22 yrs. have been more reliable and required less maintenance and repair than the manual trannies. Other than my ’73 911 I’m no longer fixated on having to shift myself. ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Yeah, automotive successes are largely a matter of timing, and Subaru is cashing in on the exploding CUV phenomenon. It’s quite clever in that the Forrester appeals to those who want a traditional CUV, while the Outback is perceived as sort of the ‘anti-CUV’. Others have mentioned that Subaru has crafted an image in the same manner as VW, and that’s a good analogy.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    Camden is only a few miles from Cherry Hill, and I’m sure incentives were given for Subaru of America to move there; why not some good news for that blighted city? Besides, there’s subway service from center-city Philadelphia across the river.

    As for the cars themselves: Subaru (regrettably) is far from the only manufacturer reducing their stick-shift offerings, and their newer cars must be appealing to lots of people who hadn’t looked at one before. One reason for their recent popularity has to be their more accommodating rear seats; the legroom in the earlier (i.e., frameless-window) cars – the Legacy and Outback through 2009, the Forester through ’08 – was rather limited.

    We have three of the older type, enjoy them a lot, and consider them irreplaceable by any new vehicle, so we’re hoping to keep them going as long as possible: ’06 Forester Premium 5-speed, ’03 Legacy SE wagon 5-speed, and ’07 Forester L.L. Bean (standard automatic).

    SoA ought to create a proper three-row van to compete with the costly, run-flat-tire-requiring Toyota Sienna AWD van. Such a vehicle would certainly do well in the U.S., although it likely couldn’t be based on the Outback/Legacy (as the unlamented Tribeca was). I also wouldn’t mind the return of the Legacy wagon still sold in non-North American markets – I’m not a fan of the Outback’s ride height – as well as a stick shift, still offered in Canada in the Outback and Legacy (those cars are made in Indiana, presumably).

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Leaving the enthusiast crowd behind seems to be the best thing for a lot of automotive makes and models. It seems to be a winning formula time and again at least in terms of commercial success. This article mirrors my thoughts exactly about the 2014 sales wrap up. I think Subaru and Jeep are probably the biggest stories to be had from the raw numbers.

    I think there is a real identifiable sales trend toward “alternative lifestyle” anything. Subaru throws itself out there as the car for the urban outdoorsman constantly. Subaru commercials have gotten pretty sappy…”Subaru = Love”, etc….but apparently are striking some sort of chord with buyers. Pushing some sort of emotional connection vs. straight up spreadsheet victory over the competition in terms of technical specs may be a winning formula.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Any automaker who listens to the enthusiast crowd as its target audience is doomed to irrelevance. I would argue that is part of the reason why Saab and Volvo faced/face oblivion. For all the hate on BMW (many of it justified, or at least of a subsection of its owner base), there is no denying that their early move into the SUV/CUV space have catapaulted them and if nothing kept them an independent company to this day.

      If automakers listened to enthusiasts we’d all be driving diesel, stickshift wagons – right? ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Enthusiasts are pretty much guaranteed to buy 5,000 cars annually in the U.S. from any given automaker that caters to their wishes.

      If you’re happy to sell a low-volume but profitable niche product, that’s great.

      But when you’re trying to grow from 250,000 to 500,000, enthusiasts aren’t going to get you there at all.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “The Japanese auto maker sold a record 500,000 units in the United States.”

    As far as I can tell, every one of them in the Pacific Northwest, too.

    (I kid, a little.

    But they’re also omnipresent here, as always.)

    • 0 avatar
      AprilFools

      I think Derek did a little injustice of not mentioning the Pacific Northwest. I believe I’ve seen a TTAC sales article where the Outback was the best selling Car in Washington for 2013.

      Can’t drive 10 miles without seeing a Subaru.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Subaru dealers are some of the highest-volume dealers of any make in the Seattle metro area. It’s kind of nice to shop for a Subaru here because chances are very high someone has your desired car in stock. Even if it’s a stickshift Forester — I had several to choose from when I bought, although we decided in the end that we wanted the turbo more than the stick.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Resale. Niche. Quirky. Has a following. Happy owners and positive corporate image. Toyota stake and thus Toyota business guidance. I am not at all surprised at Subaru’s success.

    What I am surprised at is generally generic H/K’s success, impressive things such as Genesis notwithstanding. I think all it demonstrates is the power of subprime over time. Flybrian am I right?

  • avatar
    Timtoolman

    I’ve never had an opinion on Subaru, but my brother swears by his. I suppose NOT having a bunch of recalls is a badge of honor. Instead of “love” as a tag-line, maybe they should advertise the fact they don’t have 10 million cars on a recall list.

    In the past, I’ve found them to be a bit pricey, maybe because of the AWD, I don’t know. Good for them (bunch of tree huggers).

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Instead of “love” as a tag-line, maybe they should advertise the fact they don’t have 10 million cars on a recall list.”

      That would be easy, but maybe a little disingenuous as there likely aren’t 10 million Subarus in existence.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I think that boring is really too strong of a word here. The fact that they don’t really compete in the Camry/Accord/Altima segment alone gives them a boost above boring. Unlike most every maker out there, they just seem to focus on doing what they do and doing it well. Subaru is also unique (off the top of my head) in that their advertisements focus on lifestyle which is unique in the industry. To oversimplify, Subaru is the new Saturn.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Saturn failed, Subaru is the new Volvo (when they were successful).

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        That seems about right, honestly. Old Volvos were dependable, reliable tools. Our old Tribeca was an ergonomic disaster, but was built like a tank and never had anything but oil changes and tires. It helps that Subaru shop repair rates are about half the local Volvo dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        It’s a good analogy. We’re using our Forester pretty much exactly how all the Scandinavians living in Seattle in the ’60s and ’70s used their Amazons and 140s.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Looking over and driving a high mileage Outback I can see the Volvo comparisons, though a good Volvo will fight dents better than any Asian brand.

        I don’t know entirely if Subarus are “the new Volvo”, but I do know that they’re far more “Volvo” than Volvos own FWD models.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Just to be snarky, selling 500,000 cars is a success story? GM sold 1,000,000 1965 Impalas.

    Truth be told the B&B have nailed it. 1) the market has moved towards Subaru’s bread and butter as CUV’s and vehicles with AWD are becoming the norm, 2)those who want something distinct (not domestic, mainstream Asian, German) have migrated to Subaru from non-German marques (Swedish, British, Italian, French).

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      I don’t think “unique” matters. Mitsubishi is unique, and back when the made the 90’s era Eclipse, they even had a cool car. Now it is crap. Yes, Subaru has taller, AWD cars and that is now more popular than ever, but they are also good cars.

    • 0 avatar

      those were the days when GM owned over half the US car market. The ’65 Chevrolet was a major, attractive stylistic change from the boxy ’61-’64s. The ’65 Ford–Chevy’s strongest competitor–was not as forward, stylistically.

  • avatar
    Wraith

    I bought a Legacy in 2007 because it had the best fuel economy in an AWD vehicle at the time, had a good reputation for safety, and had a good amount of equipment for the price (leather, heated seats/mirrors/wipers, moonroof, fog lights). It’s a super-practical vehicle for the snowbelt.

    And looking at the 2015 lineup, Subaru still has a great balance of AWD/fuel economy/safety/affordability/practicality. (They still need to get their new infotainment system in the Forester, presumably for MY16.)

    Sure, I’d like to see an engine option that’s more powerful than their non-turbo H4s, but gets better mileage than the H6. Maybe the Forester XT’s new turbo will make its way to the Impreza/Crosstrek and Legacy/Outback in the next few years.

  • avatar
    John R

    So basically Subie is eating VW and Volvo’s lunch the way Acura, Lexus and Infiniti ate Saab and Volvo’s lunch the previous time around.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Subaru is proof that fear sells.

    AWD has become the ‘must-have’ feature in a vehicle over the last 20 years, and Subaru is the only brand (I think) riding that wave with its entire product line. You’d wonder how anyone travelled in 20th-century winters without it.

    However, it’s not AWD, but Subaru’s slavish commitment to the boxer engine, that will hurt them in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      To an extent, I agree with you. I would contend that two factors are driving auto trends: the first is fear of death and injury which manifests in features marketed as “safe” while the second is a desire to do anything in an auto except be responsible for driving the thing. I think AWD plays into both of these. Joe Consumer rationalizes by telling himself that AWD is safer and that the car will save him when his driving ability won’t. He probably also tells himself he only needs one set of tires year-round, further compounding his problems. Don’t even get me started on the risk homeostasis.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Now that that’s out of your system, I must say my Outback drives more sure-footedly than anything I’ve owned previously, FWD or RWD. I can tell the difference in both dry and wet conditions. Haven’t tried snow yet, nor do I expect to in the near future since I’m in humid Houston.

        Placebo? Maybe. But it works.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          It’s not a placebo; Subarus are exceptionally capable.

          My point is that the brand is capitalizing on people’s misplaced, but insatiable desire for maximum security. This is one reason why health care costs are skyrocketing – people will pay anything to live another day. But I digress.

          Good driving skills go a long way. Good tires go farther, snow tires go farther yet, but AWD, 10 airbags, traction control, navigation, and OnStar are the ‘safest’. While this may be technically true, most Subaru customers never need any of these safety features throughout the life of the car. They buy the car for ‘what if’.

          • 0 avatar
            Mark_Miata

            Perfectly rational choice. How much would you pay not to die? More than those extra features cost, I’m certain. Same reason you buy insurance – you hope you don’t need it, but you are happy that you bought it if you do need it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The boxer layout isn’t the issue with Subaru engines. It’s insufficient R&D devoted to engine performance and efficiency. The boxers were perfectly competitive with similar engines in conventional inline 4 and V6 layouts a couple of generations ago and they could be again with a little love.

      • 0 avatar

        Four cylinder boxer engines have one advantage over inline four cylinder engines: They don’t need balance shafts to smooth out second order vibrations. On the other hand, they need two cylinder heads instead of one, dual exhaust manifolds, twice as many camshafts (assuming OHC), and other additional parts. V-type engines also have such complexity, but in the case of a V6 or V8, it’s necessary for packaging reasons. It is often said that boxer engines offer a lower center of gravity than inline engines, but an inline engine can be canted over or even laid flat to achieve the same effect, as done with the old Offy-powered Indy racers circa 1960.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Good point, people want their back-up cameras, lane warnings, in-car TVs, GPS, AWD, etc etc.

      People should know that AWD doesn’t necessarily help your braking in the snow.

    • 0 avatar
      fendertweed

      We live on a hill. Our former ’01 Audi A6 Avant and now an ’09 Outback (and ’14 Impreza) have no problems, where the ’05 Toyota Matrix could barely get moving even with 4 winter tires (sometimes it couldn’t)…

      And as noted, they handle well in rain & snow, so it’s some real world seat time that shows their virtues as opposed to fear mongering.

      My other car’s a ’73 911 so I’m not wedded to boxer engines but do happen to own 3 now (and an ’05 Tacoma) after a series of SAABs (99s/ 900s) and Audis.

      So far (knock on wood) the ’09 OB has been very reliable (57k miles) and is an easy car to drive 10 hrs. to/from Cape Cod without leaving me feeling in need of a chiropractor. Not as nice as the Audi but that was a repair nightmare for the last 30k of the 110k miles I owned it before I just couldn’t trust or rely on it anymore (sadly).

  • avatar
    Slocum

    We’ve got a recent model Outback. Yeah, it’s slow, but the handling is decent (given the high ground clearance) and it’s fantastic in the snow and sandy 2-tracks up by our cottage. The wife didn’t want one initially, but then drove it through last year’s winter from hell and I’m not sure she’d buy anything else now. Also, it’s a rare vehicle where the 4-cylinder towing capacity isn’t seriously underrated in the U.S. (2700# rating is enough for our boat).

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    For what it’s worth, German car magazine AutoBILD tested a Subaru XV a few months ago over 100,000 kilometres (long-term test) and their results were a bit alarming, especially for those who presume a Subie is alwas reliable and mechanically sturdy:

    – the clutch on their test car gave up the ghost twice. The testers assumed that the very torquey boxer engine put too much mechanical strress on the clutch, causing the latter to wear out and ultimately fail prematurely.

    – the engine in their test car – a 150 hp diesel – was pretty much finished after 100,000 kilometres. Two piston heads in the engine were fused/molten at the edges, which led the testers to conclude that something was seriously up with the fuel injection system. According to their research, the injectors provided by supplier Denso were to blame for this – they didn’t work properly and injected the wrong amount of fuel into the cylinders under partial engine load. The testers noticed this when they disassembled the engine after the long-term test and concluded that after another few thousand kilometres, a complete engine failure would have ensued.

    – gremlins in the electonic systems kept unnerving the testers

    – the build quality wasn’t exactly stellar, with the car rattling and humming at inopportune places and at inopportune times. Apparently, the fixtures for body parts and components were too weak and didn’t hold separate parts and components as tightly in place as they were supposed to do.

    Other criticisms: the ride was neither comfortable nor sporty; materials in the interior didn’t hold up very well over time.

    On the plus side: torquey engine; suitable for mild off-roading.

    Not really a great letter of recommendation.

    Here’s the Google Translator-mangled version of the article:

    https://translate.google.de/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.autobild.de%2Fartikel%2Fsubaru-xv-dauertest-5257749.html&edit-text=

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I met a guy who had one of those old turbo wagons. What an interesting vehicle, the same motor as the wacky XT Turbo but in a more useful package and still with AWD.

    Does Subaru sell a modern turbo CUV thing, or is the Forester XT long dead?

  • avatar
    tparkit

    I wonder if part of Subaru’s appeal is that it allows some buyers to square their car ownership with their gauzy environmentalist ethos. A Subaru owner is connected to the broader spirituality of living in harmony with the planet in all its wilderness glories. Subi owners are smart, aware people who care… people who know the affluent-but-living-below-my-means vibe of the hip new shabby-chic when they see it… people who can’t be relegated to a lower social status by others with the poor taste to mindlessly drive more expensive vehicles that confer conventional prestige.

    Subaru’s success brings to mind the book “Bobos in Paradise”, which talks about high-end spending being justified if it can be connected with the right cultural atmospherics. A Subaru owner can’t be judged, except positively.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Interesting thoughts. I’ll have to read the book. I do appreciate the 10+mpg improvment over the old BOF vehicle, but nearly anything would have truly been an improvement….

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I’ve never (to my knowledge) seen a TV add for Subaru. Over the years I always hesitated buying one because they were weird. I finally gave in and bought a used ’11 Outback and liked it. My girlfriend Amy liked it also and took it away from me to drive to work. So I purchased another used ’11 because I liked the original so much. Took a trip to New Orleans in one of ’em – ran down the interstate at 85 mph and got calculated 27 mpg for the trip (calculated, not the liar readout in the car). No issues with either one. And, yeah, the interior bits and pieces look pretty early-90’s level. But the primitive audio works well and I use a map to get around. Traded one of ’em for a ’14 Outback only because I wanted the 6-MT before it was gone. I must be an outlier as a customer as I don’t live in the Northeast, Colorado nor the Pacific Northwest (I’m in Western Ohio); I am heterosexual, lean right politically and also own an F350 7.3 crew cab. BTW: I am truly amazed – 78 comments without one reference to blown head gaskets or torn CV-joint boots. And, as Porsche well knows, boxer engines are obsolete.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Subaru’s customer base would be larger if it wasn’t for their spotty record on engine durability and rust prevention.

      As for the boxer engine, Subaru’s claimed benefits for that design are just bogus.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I have to agree, if Subarus didn’t rustdent so easily I’d seriously consider one.

        The boxer engine WAS intended to free up engine space and lower center of gravity for better handling, fine for an FRS or Imprezza, silly on a Legacy. These days its more of a gimmick.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yes, you are kind of strange, but not really, because you buy cars based on your needs and you’re happy with your decisions. A drum I’ve been beating for years. Buy what you need/want and can afford, not what other people think you should drive and your chances of being a happy car owner will be pretty good

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      bullnuke

      They’ve been advertising heavily in the Northeast for a few months at least. I see them pop up all the time in streaming media spots as well. I think that’s where the discussion of their marketing direction is coming from. Subaru is so reliant on the coastal markets that they actually offer different trim levels in the Northeast, as if it was a foreign market.

      The boxers are fine, but they suffer from a lack of volume in terms of development. The reliability issues are real, but nowadays I believe largely limited to the turbo applications (my buddy works at a Subaru dealership, so not a national statistical claim here.) In general they just don’t have the juice to keep up with the joneses in power to mileage ratios. I like a lot about Subaru, but I’d like them more if they already had GM, VW, Toyota budgets to work with. Give them VW’s engine lineup and they’d be unstoppable for instance. Give them Toyota or GM’s unit cost on the 6 cylinders and we’d see a lot more of them for another.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    “Boring” might sell, but underpowered led this potential customer to walk away.

    I “get” Subaru to a certain extent, but Christ — can’t they wring another 10 horses out of the overmatched 2.0L they put in the Impreza and (inexplicably) Crosstrek?

  • avatar
    orangefruitbat

    So many grumpy people on this thread…

    It ain’t rocket science why Foresters and Outbacks sell. It’s a nice combination of features/cargo volume/fuel economy/performance (for a CUV)/reliability/price. Doesn’t win on any one category, but it scores high across the board compared to its cross-shopped competitors. It does have the best rear-window visibility in its class, which I like.

    My Forester XT is peppy, sure-footed in the snow (and yes, I also have winter tires), easy to park in our small garage, and carries groceries and my son’s hockey bags. Roof rails are standard so it’s easy to put on the Thule for skies. If our family only has one vehicle, it’s a great choice for the price, and I didn’t test drive anything I liked better overall (though the Mazda CX5 handled better).

    Do miss the manual transmission (available on the base Forester here in Canada), but the turbo and firmer suspension was worth it to me.

  • avatar

    Hmm. I don’t think that the new WRX or STi are boring. My Spec. B certainly wasn’t when it was new on ought-six, nor is it today…with 182,000 on the odo.

    As stated (likely) multiple times above, Subaru are building cars in a market space which Audi, BMW and Volvo abandoned a long time ago and Acura will likely return to. The current WRX is the 3 iX of yore and, if they stiffen her up a bit (big bit), the Legacy with a turbo four would be more than reminiscent of the old 5ers. They used to call them “Sports Sedans.”

    Paraphrasing an old boss in an annual review – Subaru, just keep doing what you’re doing (and do give us some more Spec. B greatness.

  • avatar
    Oliver Snurdlap

    I’ve just gone through the arduous process of researching a new car and ordering a 2015 Outback. My wife and I put together a list of criteria, replacing an original small Odyssey (1998, 290K), which handled like a nippy car and fit 6 (four in comfort).
    My wife who is about 5’3″ wanted (not in any particular order):
    High seat position
    Great visibility
    All wheel drive – good on ice.
    Ability to park easily in the Toronto shopping malls,
    Reliability (Consumer Reports ranking),
    fits in the garage
    Easy access to shopping which won’t roll all over the place
    Handling as good as the Odyssey
    Cloth seats
    Veto over colour.

    I wanted all of the above (Any colour was OK) as I am 6’2″ plus:
    Good back seat passenger knee & head room,
    cargo space for at least 3 sets of golf clubs and carts (which I measured with equipment)
    The ability to put 2 bikes in the back
    Reasonable head room for me.

    Neither of us wanted a sun roof, or a big 3 car.

    During the research period I waited for 2015 models to come out and especially Consumer reports which could at least vindicate the choice.

    Unfortunately the Mercedes GLK which could also be had with a diesel,
    hadn’t enough cargo room but is selling like hot cakes in Toronto. The Volvo’s looked to have limited rear visibility and I felt squashed in the back seat. I wasn’t too fussy about a new engine either.
    The BMW X3 looked to be reasonable but the additions to get the same level of features irritated me to discard it and my wife discovered she didn’t like the rear end of the Q5, which also didn’t have enough cargo room. In the end the best fit for my wife was the Forester but the Outback had more room. (The Outback is assembled in Indiana.)
    We ordered the Limited with the tech package & H6 which came with a sun roof and leather seats. Cloth seat covers will be ordered shortly!

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      The three premium SUV you mention (Q5, X3 and I presume XC60) have insanely small cargo areas, i’ll grant the xc60 for being that little bit bigger than the other two but the Outback $hits all over them for space, no contest.

      It’s weird as i regard my 9-3 Kombi as mid size wagon at best but it has ACRES more space than the in-laws Q5, it’s no contest, not for a second.

    • 0 avatar
      fendertweed

      Subaru leather is real crap based on my 5+ years with my ’09 Outback, compared to 9+ years with an ’01 Audi Avant (that leather was like new after nearly 10 years). The Outback driver’s seat was recovered/replaced under warranty in 2+ yrs., and now at 5 yrs. is worn through again.

      I don’t feel like paying extra to have cloth seat covers replace factory leather on a Limited, so if I go with another Outback it will likely be a Premium, no sense paying $2-3k for lousy leather seats you won’t use (and the other Ltd Package goodies). Subaru’s trim level packaging leaves much to be desired currently, IMO, though an OB would be a top contender if I were to replace the current one.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I think one of the reasons they had a good year is because of last winter. I live in Queens NY and it was a bad winter. Of course if you drive thru a winter like that with summer tires you will get stuck. I always use 4 good snow tires on my car and have never got stuck in 45 years driving into NYC. I know a few people who own Subaru’s and they think with 4 wheel drive you do not need snow tires. Whatever their cars are 6-8 years old with approx 100,000 miles and the repair bills are now adding up $400.00 here and $500.00 there and it is starting to add up plus the rust spots are starting to show under the doors and the gas mileage was not to hot but the price of gas is coming down so that problem is solved. My wife owned a Subaru Brat and the only good thing about it was you could pull the engine very easily. That engine is so old it has to be replaced with a modern one.
    I like the forester but that engine is a complete dog. a straight 4 cylinder 2.5 would do that car well.Forgot to mention when you blow out a tire you just can not replace one you have to buy 2. Can be a little costly.

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      I am in Queens as well! Last year’s winter easily qualifies as the worst one I’ve ever experienced.

      Most of my Subie buddies are on their 2nd & 3rd boxer engine. All less than 100k miles. The problems I’ve witnessed with the boxer, back when I wrenched on cars for a living, is what keeps me from owning one today.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    A chief example of this would be the Subaru Legacys conception, before hand Subaru mostly made slow compacts that rarely lasted more than a few years due to rust.

    When the Legacy came out they became a bit more “normal”, now they had a car that had decent power and size to it…it was also a bit dull with all the visual charisma of an Acura Legend, even the name was arguably taken from Acuras model.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    On our second Subaru. Yes, we have one of those stupid badges on the back.

    We’re repeat buyers because the first one was reliable, safe, solid, drove well and didn’t look like every Civolla on the road. Now that we’re in the PNW the ‘wow, what’s that?’ factor is gone, but our Forester has been a great family runabout. But they have serious holes in their lineup that they don’t seem to want to fill (7-passenger, subcompact) that they have cars for in Japan. Would it be that much to federalize and export them for a few more sales at the top and bottom ends of the market?

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    “manual Outbacks, no more WRX hatchbacks, no turbocharged Legacy models, no more pure wagons”

    They trimmed the fat and got rid of stuff that doesn’t sell.

    If “enthusiasts” aren’t willing to put their money where their mouth is, then this will happen. Subaru doesn’t give a fork if you buy used.

  • avatar
    keylimestate

    I hear you, Mr. Kreindler–I would love to see a turbo wagon like the Levorg (Subaru just announced Levorg is going to Britain) or the old Legacy GT wagon, as well as a hatchback for the Impreza AND WRX. And I loved the big bean shaped Tribeca. Still, Subaru is far from “boring”–they still “fun to drive”, according to the gearheads at Motor Trend. The Forester is proof that a high-volume, bread-and-butter model needn’t be boring: Motor Trend, when naming that car the 2014 SUV of the Year, said “editors had an absolute blast driving the Forester,” enjoying its “road feel and sportier suspension.” Road test editor Jonny Lieberman said “I was incredibly impressed with the CVT…Subaru went ahead and programmed it as aggressively as Porsche’s PDK.” MT said that “rave reviews came in as judges completed drive loops in both Subies,” saying the Forester gave “the fun enthusiasts will enjoy”. Ron Jurnecka said it was “fun to hustle along twisting back roads”. The MT guys use the word “fun” a lot when describing the Forester, and “fun” is the opposite of boring.
    And the Forester is the bread-and-butter model, not meant to be for enthusiasts. As you note yourself, on the opposite end, the WRX, one of the most coveted tuner/sports cars, got a 42% increase in sales, so fun sells too. Though, like you, I would like to see it in a hatchback.
    So I agree with you that I would like to see more of what made people love the brand back in the day–quirky styling, manual transmissions, hatchbacks and wagons, and turbos. I would love to see the Legacy wagon turbodiesels they sell Down Under and in Britain. Canadians love hatchbacks–if Subaru can make a case for selling a WRX hatch in Canada, I’d happily drive all the way from from FL to pick one up. Still, all is not lost: when your bestseller, your momwagon, is called “a blast” and “fun to drive” by MT, you’ve still got your mojo. Thanks for the post. Maybe one day there will a TTAC post on the arrival of Levorg stateside!

  • avatar
    lonborghini

    The Subaru BRZ is the exception, but who needs a low priced sports coupe when boring sedans sell so well.

  • avatar
    TAP

    I agree that the supposed benefits of the boxer engine aren’t convincing, but disagree about the boxer hurting them “in the long run”.
    This is the long run!!

  • avatar
    fiasco

    I need ground clearance, winter tires, and either AWD or a limited slip diff (either set of drive wheels) with full nanny shutoff to get up my road during much of winter and (even more) Mud Season. My 03 Legacy wagon (purchased new) will turn 199,000 miles before I reach pavement in the morning; it’s rusty and a blown gearbox or engine from retirement. I can’t complain, despite two sets of head gaskets, it’s yanked 12″ trees out of the woods, hauled a trailer so overloaded I could only get up the hill near my house in first gear, and it’s been hooned like Colin McRae and Petter Solberg went on an aquavit binge and were thrown the keys.

    Over the years I’ve tweaked the car for my needs; trailer hitch to haul firewood or the Ski-Doo, skid plates to float over the ruts the F350 KING RANCH POWER STROKE 4×4’s make in the road every spring, King springs for an extra couple inches of ground clearance. If I could buy a brand new 2003 Outback with a stick shift today; no question I’d there would be a payment book on my desk.

    I’ve had a 2004 Outback, but I found my (wife’s) car had the “latest and greatest” electronic throttle and “lifetime” fuel filter…and it started throwing fuel evaporative system codes at 98k miles that weren’t getting fixed with gas caps or RTV sealant…it got traded on a Sienna (which got traded on an AWD Sienna due to 265 hp going to the front wheels with no LSD and a lousy traction control that even Nokian winter tires couldn’t overcome). Funny thing is, when I took my wife to get her a new car when my 88 4Runner died, we ended up with the used 04 over the new 07 because the older car fit baby seats better for our tall frames. I really like the wagon for trips to the recycling center, getting parts for my Lemons car, or throwing my skis in the back.

    If I’m pressed into buying a new car, it will probably be an XV Crosstrek in brown, red, or blue, stick shift, trailer hitch, heated seats. I should probably go drive one to confirm I won’t hate it. If I do, I really don’t know what I’d get. New Outbacks are flipping HUGE compared to my 03, as are Foresters. Imprezas don’t have much ground clearance, and have a zero tow rating.

    There’s a dearth of other cars out there with a manual gearbox and enough traction and ground clearance for my needs.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Try out a Forester — it’s far more capacious and practical than the Crosstrek, isn’t saddled with the weak-sauce FB 2.0, and I don’t think it’s as big as you think.

      2003 Legacy: Length 187,4″ Width 68.7″ Height 59.6″ Cargo capacity (all seats down) 68.6 cu ft
      2015 Forester: Length 180.9″ Width 70.7″ Height 66.4″ Cargo capacity (all seats down) 74.7 cu ft

      So the Forester is more than half a foot shorter (in length) and only 2″ wider than your Legacy, while holding more stuff. It is taller, but such is life with modern cars.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Derek, Colorado is another Subie hotspot as well as the Pacific North West.

    Here in Maritimes Canada, when I go to my dealer, I don’t see all these millenials in for service. Just average greying wage drones bent over their devices enjoying free wifi and half decent coffee in the lounge. About as interesting as mud. Just like the current crop of cars for sale. At least even the staff are enthusiastic – I had a mechanic of all people trying to sell me an H6 Legacy, a vehicle I could never imagine owning. Nice paint, though. Now learn how to use a torque wrench on aluminum wheel lugs, Fred.

    These beloved past WRX and STI hatchbacks you speak of – again virtually none of them going back a decade are that style round these parts. The sedan predominates. Maybe the wagon/hatch is a big city thing, because Impreza hatchbacks are desperately noisy on the highway. I mean “are all the windows up?” noisy in the 2014.

    The vehicles in general seem to have evolved into big bags of air. My Legacy GT looks height-challenged these days, even compared to a new WRX. If you find the current offerings as boring and uninspirational as I do, then at least drive a new STI. What a hoot! Quirky as all get out and makes the new GTI seem like Little Miss Prim.

    There’s still someone feeding the wacko side of things back in Japan.
    .
    The Camry, by contract, has to be made in Subaru’s Indiana plant till next year, Fall 2016 that is, almost two years out still. Then they’ll have space for 100K more Outbacks. I’m sure they’d kick Toyota out earlier if they could, but Toyota seemed quite hurt last year at having their contract not renewed.

    As for the readers who think Subaru are cash-strapped these days, they need to read Fuji Heavy Industries online financial reports. Also, they are smart businessmen. They refuse to build a new giant factory only to face a sinking market on the usual boom/bust cycle, and they hardly need tips from Toyota as to how to market cars.

    The usual opinions or half-remembered truths trump facts TTAC thread. I guess you get what you pay for. Sigh.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    My cousin seems to have finally found a car that exactly matches his desires to always have a boring car. He used to buy cars that could/would have been exciting, if equipped the right way, but they never were. His first car was an AMC Javelin, with the base 6 cylinder engine and auto. At least it was red. After it died in an encounter with a giant pothole (Almost flipped over), he took the insurance check and bought a Camaro. Not just any Camaro, the most boring one I’ve ever seen. Again, it had a 6 cylinder engine, auto, and it was BEIGE. It didn’t even have the rear spoiler. He went to a beige Volvo sedan, and then a beige Volvo wagon after that. His boring ways continue to his choices of audio in his cars. He wants no bass, none at all, and his kids gave him no end of shit over his “allergy” to bass. He “doesn’t like it!”. Needless to say, music sounds like crap in his cars. He went to his and hers Jeep Grand Cherokees, the most exciting vehicles he’s ever had, in white (wife), and silver for him. Then he reversed it and got a white one and his wife silver. Now, they drive his and her’s identical silver Subaru Outbacks. He loves them, they put me to sleep, I don’t get the thrill of them at all. They don’t have a lot of room up front, and aren’t very comfortable. Even the color is boring, but I don’t know if Sub actually does have any good colors available on the Outback. I asked him a while back, “So are you still in love with the Sub?”, and he laughed and said, “I don’t think I’ll ever buy any other make of car!”. At 63, I figure he’s got about 2-3 more cars in him before his driving days are over, but his dad was driving until the day he died at 85, so he may get a few more than that. But unless Subaru makes a lemon, I think he’s a lifer.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    I think Subaru sold out. They stopped making fun cars but instead make an awd alternative to the Camry. My current ’12 WRX is more than likely will be the last Subaru I own for a while unless they either release a WRX hatchback again or I go a bit insane and get a BRZ. Nothing else in their lineup is even remotely interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I was going to say between the BRZ, WRX, and Forrester XT I see no reason for anyone to claim Subaru has “sold out”. That’s 3 fun cars in a small line up, where as Honda, Toyota and VW sell at most 2…

      The Outback and Forrester both grew in response to interior size complaints and Subaru faces “sell out” accusations. The WRX went to a sedan because the hatchback-only configuration received market complaints.

      And yet for all internet claims of “I’ll never buy another”, they’ve broken yet another sales record.

  • avatar

    Cain recently posted about Impreza/WRX/STi sales, and it struck me that some rather large proportion, like 1/4 or 1/5 of all US Impreza sales were owned by one of the performance models. That seems really high, and belies the argument that boring sells, at least in that part of the market. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that whatever proportion of the sales they make up, the WRX and WRX+ make up much or most of the net margin, too. So selling turbo AWD compacts is a really, really good business for Subaru, regardless of how boring Derek thinks the Subaru sales message has become.

    • 0 avatar

      Huge spoiler or no, the current Impreza looks like a 14 year old Corolla that got stung by a several bees.

      Going with this article, I have way too many opinions on why Subaru used to be a more interesting company. My friends and family are sick of hearing them. However, I am the kind of guy who will buy a used car for $3000 dollars and drive it for seven years. I have no plans on buying a new car in the foreseeable future. For that reason, my opinion DOES NOT MATTER to Subaru, Toyota, Ford, etc. They would be dumb to listen to me, because I am not buying a new car anyway.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I looked at the Forester and it makes sense to me , were I to need a new car ~ roomy , I could lay a rubber mat in the back area to carry my tools and boxes of old parts , I bet I could carry a Motocycle in there if I took the wheels off .

    I do think it looks pretty stodgy but that’s the market they built it for , non ? .

    -Nate

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • olddavid: I agree. I live where most electricity is generated by hydro and/or nuclear at Hanford. In my travels I see...
  • RHD: Yaffle, dear readers, means an armful, or a green woodpecker. Maybe what the author could have written was...
  • Inside Looking Out: If DeLorean had 14 billion $$ and if he did not betray original engineering team and did not twit...
  • Inside Looking Out: And Saturn.
  • 28-Cars-Later: Just an opinion for the editor, why do you maximize the size of the blue GM logo? I ask because it...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber