The Subaru Ascent Will Cannibalize Outback And Forester; Even Subaru Thinks So

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
the subaru ascent will cannibalize outback and forester even subaru thinks so

Still nearly eight months away from being revealed in final production form, it’s already assumed inside Subaru HQ that the 2018 Subaru Ascent will generate the bulk of its conquests from inside the Subaru family.

Subaru expects to sell approximately 60,000 Ascents on an annual basis in the United States. But according to statements made about the long-awaited three-row Tribeca replacement by Subaru CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga at last month’s Geneva Motor Show, the Ascent won’t be stealing many sales of the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, and Nissan Pathfinder.

Hey, Outback and Forester: Subaru’s looking at you for donations to the Ascent’s cause.

Yoshinaga, reported as saying, won’t be a conquest vehicle. At least, not in the traditional sense of bringing buyers in from outside the Subaru network. Automotive News says Yoshinaga claims the Ascent won’t siphon a large percentage of sales from established vehicles.

Subaru, which has grown rapidly in North America, could simply be operating with an abundance of caution. After all, there are concerns with adding too many sales at too many dealers that can’t keep up with the service requirements. “We have grown so fast over such a short time, the service part of our network hasn’t kept up,” Subaru of America president Tom Doll said earlier this year.

Subaru’s Yoshinaga, not unwisely, could also be reigning in expectations. Though Subaru’s U.S. volume nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016 and more than tripled since the recession, Subaru remains a relatively small automaker by global standards. And while Subaru generates healthy volume from the majority of its products, none are outright chart toppers in terms of total U.S. volume. Through the first-quarter of 2017, the Outback and Forester are America’s 23rd and 24th-best-selling vehicles.

At roughly 60,000 annual U.S. sales, the Subaru Ascent will be producing roughly one-fourth the Ford Explorer’s volume, one-third the Toyota Highlander’s volume, and roughly half the Honda Pilot’s volume. An average of 5,000 monthly sales will put the Ascent well back of the Nissan Pathfinder, more in line with vehicles such as the Dodge Durango and Buick Enclave, albeit measurably more popular than the Mazda CX-9.

Subaru is well aware — perhaps more aware than any outsider — how many of its own current customers would be inclined to stay in the Subaru family if only they could. The Tribeca wasn’t a successful example of a vehicle that could keep Subaru owners inside Subaru showrooms. Fewer than 80,000 Tribecas were sold in America over the course of a decade.

But the Ascent, thinly veiled in its New York International Auto Show concept debut this week, is properly large. Its wheelbase stretches to a Ford Flex-like 117 inches, which should facilitate third-row comfort in a segment where the Explorer, Highlander, and Pilot offer 113, 110, and 111 inches of wheelbase.

Styling is subjective, of course, but no one would argue that the Ascent is a Tribeca-esque affront to good sense.

And while Subaru was still a niche automaker when the aggressively priced and undersized Tribeca hit the market more than a decade ago, Subaru is perceived in a very different way by much of the American car-buying public in 2017.

Thus, while Subaru’s CEO seems to believe the Ascent only has the potential to steal sales away from increasingly successful Subaru nameplates, the future is likely much brighter for the 2018 Ascent. Subaru’s too hot for it not to be.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Matzel Matzel on Apr 23, 2017

    How are the head gaskets going to be on the big three row CUV? I drive an Outback that's already on it's third head gasket at 140,000km. It'll be my one and only Subaru - that's for damn sure...

  • Brian Rener Brian Rener on Mar 24, 2018

    I am thinking in particular the 3.6R Outbacks may loose more sales - from what I can tell there is a 10% difference to get you into a Ascent. We were considering a 3.6R Outback and will now wait to see.

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