By on March 9, 2015

2015 Subaru OutbackIt’s official: Subaru is now routinely the seller of more than 40,000 new vehicles per month in the United States. That’s an impressive achievement considering that in 2013, the company averaged 35,390 monthly sales in what was the automaker’s best year ever. Between 2002 and 2012, Subaru USA averaged fewer than 19,000 monthly sales.

In each of the last twelve months, Subaru sales have shot past the 40,000-unit mark. Subaru USA had crested the 40K barrier twice in the previous seven months. But now all the brand’s best-ever performances have occurred in the recent past.

Last month, for example, was Subaru’s best-ever February.

The previous month was the best-ever January.

August of last year, when 50,246 Subarus were sold in the United States, represented Subaru’s best-ever month full stop, just one year after Subaru was touting best-ever results in August 2013.

In most months, the push past 40K hasn’t been even remotely incremental. Subaru volume jumped 21% in March 2014, for instance the month the streak began. Among volume brands – yes, Subaru is most definitely now a volume brand – only Jeep and Ram reported greater year-over-year improvements.

Subaru USA sales chart 40K streakThe year-over-year percentage improvements have consistently measured in excess of the market’s rate of growth, save for one month when Subaru grew at the same rate as the industry as a whole. The average YOY increase over the last 12 months? 21.3%.

2014’s 21% leap forward was bettered only by Mitsubishi’s 25% improvement, Ram’s 28% increase, Jeep’s 41% jump, and Maserati’s 171% (8175 units) increase. Subaru added 89,010 sales in 2014 after growing by 88,242 units in 2013 and 69,452 in 2012. Sales have increased in seven consecutive years.

Through the first two months of 2015, Subaru sales are up 21%, a gain of 14,261 units during the two lowest-volume auto sales month of the year following a gain of 12,083 units during the first two months of 2014.

All these impressive figures force the question: which vehicles are pushing Subaru forward? The answer is simple: nearly all of them. Defunct Tribeca and niche market BRZ aside, every Subaru is increasingly popular.

Consider just the last two months, a period in which YOY volume of the best-selling Outback jumped 34%, the next-best-selling Forester rose 5%, the XV Crosstrek was up 26%, non-WRX Imprezas rose 13%, Legacy volume increased 55%, and the WRX/STi jumped 44%.

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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58 Comments on “Beyond Official: A 12-Month-Long 40K Sales Streak Proves Subaru USA Is Mainstream...”


  • avatar
    mingo

    Subaru’s hot selling streak is due to many factors:
    1. Vehicles that people want now; the right trend
    2. Reliability
    3. Five star IIHS crash testing results
    4. Driver aids and safety features.
    5. Competitive pricing

    I was shopping for a vehicle for my wife. Her priority was outward visibility, good mpg, and safety. We looked at all vehicles in its class and the Forester was the one she chose. Lots of features, and a commanding view of the road with virtually no blind spots. She’s very pleased with it and I’m pleased it’s proven reliable too. She doesn’t care, but I really like the Eyesight features.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I might still be concerned with reliability as they age. Not sure how their products about 06+ are faring these days, though. Any common issues?

      With the standard head gasket and CV joint worries, it might be one of those things where you can make a blanket statement like, “Don’t buy a Subaru made before XXXX.”

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        The regular maintenance intervals are outlined in the owners manual, and if you stick to the schedule you should not have any problems. One biggie with the Subies is the CV Boot replacement. If the boot tears and lets in dirt, sand, crud, the CV joint will be history in no time, because it was designed to run in grease, not dirt like a drive-shaft U-joint on RWD cars.

        As part of the regular maintenance schedule, most do-it-yourselvers run a torque-wrench over all the nuts and bolts, including those for the heads. Often, head gaskets blow because of uneven torque across the head bolts.

        For dealerships, it is not in their interests to retorque the nuts and bolts because they make money from breakdowns.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Right, and the only option is to either remove the joint and put on a new boot, or do a fake boot that essentially snaps together. And the boots always go bad.

          Why don’t other FWD cars have this issue?

          Most cars need their head bolts torqued? Is this normal as well?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Other cars with CV joints have the same issues — you have to periodically replace the two boots per axle.

            I just did that on my $1.00 1989 Camry V6. Not difficult, but you do need a hoist. The boots up against the differential required me to slide out the shaft, so it does get involved.

            The neoprene boots are expendable, sacrificial and designed to be there to keep the dirt out. They are supposed to be checked each time you change the motor oil.

            The Saturn I bought for my daughter blew a headgasket around 50K miles. And, more than likely, that was due to the fact that I never retorqued the head bolts since I was the only one who ever performed maintenance on her car.

            Retorquing nuts and bolts is a preventative measure, most DIY perform such checks. If they don’t, the mistakes they make are all their own.

          • 0 avatar
            bullnuke

            While head gaskets were an issue with Subaru EJ25 engines in the late ’90s and early ’00s (and many with Subaru goodwill repairs), head gaskets were an issue with me on Toyota Celicas (3 out of 3 blew at around 100k miles). CV joint boots broke on my old ’98 Honda Civic at 9300 miles (arrogant dealer, of course, didn’t honor warranty – “Customer Abuse” BS). I’ve replaced boots at less than 50k miles on a couple of my fwd VW’s also. As with most anecdotal evidence presented about various makes/models of vehicles, YMMV.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            bullnuke, same circumstance happened to a friend of mine with a Civic. The dealer called it Customer Abuse. Said boots were designed to last for at least three years/36K miles, unless abused or run over gravel.

            When you live along an unimproved, unpaved, gravel country road, the underside of any car does get pelted with debris.

            I helped him service that Civic. Once we bought the replacement parts at NAPA it took us about 2 hours start to finish to replace them, and we were first-time novices, just eyeballing it after cutting off the old boots with a pair of tin-snips.

            We used the hoist at the nearby airbase auto hobby shop. Cost us $10 to rent it for two hours plus the ~$50 cost of the boots vs >$500 to pay the dealer to do it.

        • 0 avatar
          Speedygreg7

          The owner’s manual does not specify an interval for retorquing the heads nor does it specify an interval for replacing the CV boots. The CV boots fail around 60,000 miles because the boxer engine exhaust manifolds sit right next to the boots and cook them. Once they dry out, game over and you get a horrid smell and smoke as the grease spreads all over the hot exhaust. This happens much earlier on Subarus than on any other transverse FWD car. As for the head gaskets, it remains to be seen if the new generation of FA engines suffers the same isssue. Subaru claimed many time to have fixed the EJ series but the problem persisted for years after.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ah ha! I had forgot the exhaust heat thing as being the reason. My Impreza wagon had the horrible burning grease smell and smoke from the right hand side.

            But mine had the 2.2 so I didn’t have the head gasket issue of the late 90s 2.5.

            Thank you for clarifying for HDC the “normal Subaru maintenance” items which are not listed in the manual.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            HDC,

            head studs are “torque to yield,” after their initial tightening, there isn’t much to be done. I’ve NEVER heard of such a maintenance regimen on anything even remotely modern.

            The reason Subarus are such habitual CV boot munchers is that the horizontally opposed motor layout ends up having the exhaust manifolds routed rather close to the CV joint. Extended periods of high heat cause the rubber to get brittle and crack.

            Apparently despite the head gaskets, CV boots, wheel bearings, EVAP CELs, Subarus have managed to earn a reputation for reliability, so I don’t blame Subaru for not taking a more serious look at re-engineering things to actually not fail.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            gtemnykh, you’d be surprised how these “torqued to yield” fasteners have a habit of loosening with time and distance.

            True hobbyists who maintain their own car do a complete undercarriage inspection each time they change the oil, and often, but not always, that includes checking to see if nuts and bolts have worked loose.

            Over the decades I did such routine checking, I found loosed fasteners on rear differentials, transmission oil pans, engine crankcase oil pans, valve cover oil pans, exhaust clamps.

            And that is just a list off the top of my head. I do remember four loose bolts on the engine fan of my wife’s Caprice, the ones that fasten the fan to the Eaton clutch. Made a racket every time she went around a corner. No doubt, a gift from some disgruntled UAW worker of that era.

            A friend of mine has a 1982 BMW 320i he would like to keep running and the last time he took it to the BMW dealer in San Diego to be serviced, they pulled the head, decarbonized, retorqued everything, set shims and retorqued the suspension.

            Just a whole host of things that the local Jiffy Lube does not do. All at a price, $945.26 to be exact, for a scheduled maintenance interval. A little high for just a LOF, but they gave him a checklist of everything that was done. And it had like 52 items on it that were checked and recertified.

            I learned my lesson decades ago when my dad taught me how to rebuild his 426 Hemi engines for his dragster. I should have done it on my daughter’s Saturn, but got lazy and complacent. Didn’t check. Took a shortcut. She blew a head gasket. I was out >$1000.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            It’s unfortunate that the exhaust design results in shortened CV boot life, but I’ve done a few on other vehicles and they’re not very difficult or expensive to change. I’d rather do that every 60k than a timing belt.

            I’ve never found it necessary to have a hoist to change CV axles.

            Visibility was probably the biggest factor with the Forester of which I was involved in the purchase. That was back in ’06 though.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            rpn453, a hoist just makes it easier to do the job standing up, also for timing belt replacement.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            A hoist certainly does make a lot of jobs a lot easier and more pleasurable. But I’m cheap, poor, reasonably young, and willing to suffer. And swear. Profusely.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Yeah, even with a hoist I coined new cusswords.

        • 0 avatar
          CooperS

          Here in SLC Subaru is just a given. Sure higher maintenance cost then others. But, not to many other products perform like a Subaru. Sure every 150,000 it could need some work on the engine. Reminds me of old Volvo 240’s but with great AWD and more reliability. I think Audi quattro commercials also helped out Subaru for people outside of the mountain and snow areas of the United States. Following the service recommendations help out and all FWD vehicles have CV boots for those that don’t know what a CV is on this site. I also don’t see how anyone could buy a Civic, Sentra, Focus, Golf, Corolla, Dart, or Cruze when they can buy a Impreza when they are getting over 36 mph highway. Under $20,000 with standard AWD, sounds like a no-brainer.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      Your list is excellent.

      It’s also obvious Volvo is missing out on something here.

  • avatar
    Counterpoint

    Now if only they would build a WRX hatchback again I’ll give them 40,001 sales. Oh well, probably not going to happen.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t understand that. It seems like, of all people, WRX buyers would rather have a hatchback than a sedan. I myself would rather have a WRX hatch than a WRX sedan. Hopefully one does come along…

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Only for style, Kyree. I had an 2014 Impreza hatchback for over a week last May. It was so darn noisy on the highway, I twice stopped to make sure all the doors, windows and hatchback were actually closed. Not really sure how it could be so noisy, but apparently Subaru spent an extra $29 on the 2015s to add thicker glass, and 1/8 inch thicker floor felt.

        Cynical of me? Sure. But I do own a Subaru made before they became inveterate wobblers with a sproingy ride, thereby joining the mainstream vehicle market.

    • 0 avatar
      DrGastro997

      I was wronged by Subaru and its potential buyers of the WRX/STI sedan- I didn’t believe Subaru would pull it off without the hatchbacks. I still can’t understand it but kudos to them for getting it very right…

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    In the golden age of the CUV, you’d expect a company that sells mostly CUVs to do well.

  • avatar

    Spacious cars.
    ALL WHEEL DRIVE
    Affordable prices.

    It’s so obvious it’s obvious.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I wish they had nicer interiors, and better availability of V6 engines which were not heavy, thirsty, and under-powered.

    I really want them to be a Japanese-reliable Audi alternative, and they just aren’t :(.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      You’re not the only one.

      My “perfect” car would be a Subaru with a Honda/Toyota powertrain, Volvo seats, and Audi paint/metal quality.

      The Subaru flat 6 is supposed to be a gem of a motor, and doesn’t seem to have head gasket issues, oh and it sounds cool.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think it’s grown outdated. And the HP figures reflect the age. As well as MPGs!

        3.6L and 256 HP? 23mpg combined (with CVT)!?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Meh, sometimes it’s not all about numbers/figures. Much in the way the toyota 3.5V6 is nowhere near the top of hp ratings any more, yet it continues to be one of the smoothest, most satisfying V6s on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        DrGastro997

        You’re so right on the flat six being a gem of a motor. I have a flat six in my 997 which is both great and painstakingly unreliable. I hear Stuttgart being envious of Subaru’s flat six!

  • avatar

    I’m happy to hear that. I’ve always liked Subaru, and I especially like the new Legacy and Outback…

  • avatar
    hreardon

    My parents are on their second Outback and love them. I had a brand new one as a rental up in New Hampshire a few months back and my take on the car is that it was fine – but there was way too much road noise and the transmission, my proverbial knock against Subaru, sucks.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I don’t own any Suburu product but the people I know who buy Subaru do not buy them for their quiet interiors or plush ride. It’s a niche market, like buying a Jeep Wrangler, not quiet and no plush ride. OTOH, any Subaru product is more civilized than the Wrangler, and yet each has a loyal following.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …anecdotally, it seems that saab’s former demographic have moved en masse over to subaru, now that the economy is picking up momentum again…

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      All 20k/month of it?

      Haha. ;)

      • 0 avatar
        ...m...

        …i can’t speak to overall volume, just anecdotal trends i’ve personally noticed across the traditional saab demographic in central texas and northern california…

        …before the bottom dropped out of the economy, saab were doing about 10K per month, a pretty substantial figure, and now that the economy has turned around and those cars are due replacement, it could be a significant factor in subaru’s recent success…

        …i’ve also recently noticed a measure of honda loyal switching to subaru when they’re ready to move upmarket, rather than making the leap to acura…

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      I drive a 9-3 wagon, Volvo are priced at a point that I just simply cannot justify. VW have the whole reliability issue plus they dropped the Passat wagon.

      If i was buying, i’d literally have no choice below $50K but an Outback.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Expect to see WRX/STI sales fall in 2016 since they will have good competition in the Golf R and Focus RS.

    As to reliability any non-turbo Subaru should be pretty good. Stay away from the 2.5l EJ.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    If one needs AWD and/or cargo space for under $30k, a Subaru is the best game in town.

    Lots of “Enthusiasts” like to bitch and moan about how awful Subaru going “Mainstream” is but all that really means is the vehicles have gotten nicer and more refined.

    Take the hallowed 2009 Outback and compare it to a 2015. The 2015 is more spacious, quiet, comfortable, and refined than the 2009.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Uglier too, but that’s because the 2005-2009 was the first decent looking Subaru. Ever.

      ’15 is definately an improvement over the ’10-’14 series, although I love my little homely-aarvark-looking ’13….

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Couple of thoughts, here in CO it has been a long time since anyone thought Subie was not a mainstream brand. You could argue here that Mazda and non GM trucks are niche markets, I’m looking at you Buick.

    My neighbor just dumped her Mercedes C 300 ? (I’m not the best at Mercedes model lines) it was the all wheel drive model etc, anyway, she leased a new legacy and loves it. According to her, it is way better in the snow than the Merc, gets better mpg, and generally feels like a better car. The best part according to her is the lease on the subie is about $150 less than the lease on the Benz. She gets a per dime through work and has to have a 3 model year or newer car, so let’s not get into the lease debate. I don’t offer unsolicited financial advise to my neighbors……and yes her wife has a 4Runner with north of 100k on the odo so they complete the subie ownership paradigm. Nonetheless I broke her chops a little bit.

    I had an 02′ WRX wagon for about 9 months. I did not find this to be a quality car in terms of reliability or FE. Was in the shop twice for major repairs in 10k miles. That to me is indicative of more bad things to come only in my dime so I unloaded it.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    My wife is on her 3rd Subaru (a 2009 Forester) and loves them. The aspects she likes best is that they are safe and she can actually see out of it.

    Subaru’s were honestly never on my radar. IMO her Forester is slow, noisy and little fun to drive, but in 150k miles all that has been replaced is an ignition coil. Therefore I am sold on the reliability of at least this one.

    On the other hand, I could probably get used to a 6-cylinder Outback if a manual was offered.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Here’s the thing, my father in law is looking for a car, wants a nice badge with nav, rear camera and sunroof. REALLY wants a Q5 but with these items selected even a mildly used one is well over $50K! Brand new is approaching some 60 thousand dollars.

    He will not go Outback as it looks like a wagon but for a tick over $40K he can get one absolutely loaded with everything in it, brand spanking new. The delta to the Q5 is a solid $15K and the Outback holds more stuff, is better for a family and drives better.

    Makes you think.

    • 0 avatar
      Speedygreg7

      I seriously doubt that the Outback drives better than the Q5. The suspension geometry of the Outback is never quite right after the lift kit is applied to the Legacy, causing many on the Outback forums to complain of drifting and floating feelings at highway speed. I know personally that my 07 Outback was far less stable when new than our 2012 Altima when new.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        I agree on the “drifting and floating feelings at highway speed” of the ’10 thru ’14 Outbacks. I installed an up-sized rear stabilizer bar (increase from 15mm to 19mm diameter) from the STI – a 15 minute job. Bar is available from the Subaru parts website for about $95. Radically improved the highway stability of both my ’11 and ’14 Outbacks without adding harshness to the ride. I haven’t driven a ’15 yet so I do not know if they are any better “out of the box” with the highway stability issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      Yeah but the Q5 is taller than the outback and is borderline harsh in attempt to make it go around corners.

      • 0 avatar
        Speedygreg7

        Still, it is a German car and must feel more planted than an Outback. I’ve not driven a Q5, but in my old Outback you’d start losing confidence that the wheels were on the ground at 70mph. I am skeptical that the new ones are much better since they have become even taller.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Although they don’t race in the Indy 500 or play basketball, the Subaru team has provided a lot of good jobs here in Indiana.

  • avatar
    ldl20

    I’m glad to say I contributed to these numbers (I took delivery of a 2.5 Outback Limited in the same green as the car pictured).

    It’s as BTSR said above: Spacious enough for my 6’3″ frame without being too huge; I like that I have AWD without a huge MPG penalty; and it is affordable for what you get.

    As a lover of wagons (former Mazda6 and Protege5 owner), what else is there besides spending an extra 10K or more on some European models?

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      They are in dire need of another engine though. The V6 is thirsty and needs lots of revs and the 4 banger is not enough for a car this size IMHO. Even a mild 2T with lots of torque would do, nothing crazy just a unit that can pull hard. Jesus buy the rights to GM’s ECOTEC in the Saabs and drop that in. Tremendous little mill.

  • avatar
    7402

    A few years back I could not have imagined myself owning a Subaru, but I have a ’14 Forester in my garage now. Subaru has done everything well with this car and kept the price down. It’s actually available with a manual transmission which attracts some die-hard clutch-pedal enthusiasts who have very few choices. It has lots of headroom. The rear seat accommodates three child seats handily. It has an well-executed and time-tested AWD system that excels in snow. It’s roomy. For cost-conscious buyers the base models are among the best values in the entire vehicle marketplace. The top-spec models do not strike me as a great value, but I’d still rank them a reasonable value.

    If a manufacturer builds the right cars and prices them right, they will move.

    • 0 avatar
      andrewbarnet

      I just bought a base ’15 Forester for all the same reasons. We wanted something with AWD, space, decent mileage, and a manual transmission, for a reasonable price. I don’t think we could be happier, especially since we’ve had snow and ice on our 1/4 mile gravel driveway for much of the winter.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I might consider driving a Subaru if:

    a] They made FWD versions. Not everyone needs/wants AWD, with the resultant weight/MPG/maintenance issues. (At one time, Subaru boasted that all of its vehicles were AWD. With the advent of the BRZ, they can no longer make that statement. So why not a FWD Imprezza?)

    b] There was more than 1 dealer within a 200-mile radius. The lone dealer of any marque reserves the right to treat customers however they want, and Subaru of Las Vegas sure takes advantage of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      IIRC, FWD was under consideration for Subaru a few years back. AWD is their ‘schtick’ – but obviously it’s pulled people in since they went (nearly) all-AWD 20 years ago. Notice Acura is going in the same direction….to provide ‘premium’ AWD vehicles to Subaru without stepping into Euro reliability problems? All said, my OBs mpg is pretty decent and I really love the AWD on both dry and wet surfaces.

      That sucks about your lone dealer…competition is always good for the consumer. The four we have in the Houston area are all superb, especially on service.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    You can barely find an Outback to test drive where I live; the ones that arrive at dealers are already sold or sell within days, especially the Limited trim.

    Badly out-classed six, though. Would do better to drop in the 2.0T as the uplevel engine.

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