Subaru's American Boss to Guide the Brand Worldwide, U.S. Prez Will Keep the Pedal Down

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

After serving as head honcho of a brand that’s enjoyed 10 consecutive years of sales increases in the United States, Subaru of America CEO Tomomi Nakamura is headed to Japan to work the same kind of magic on the automaker’s global business.

On Friday, Nakauma was tapped as the next president of Subaru Corporation, the multi-armed conglomerate once known as Fuji Heavy Industries. He’s served in that role since 2014. In his place, Subaru of America president Tom Doll takes the biggest office at Subaru of America HQ, making him the first American to hold the position since Subaru took over the U.S. division in the waning days of disco.

It’s now Doll’s responsibility to see that Subaru’s hot streak continues, even in this era of cooling demand and technological disruption.

Both men joined the company in 1982 and have seen it go from an oddball niche automaker to a sales juggernaut, despite constrained production capacity. Still, being able to sell every model a network of factories can build, relatively quickly and without copious incentives, is a problem many companies wish they had.

Doll took the president’s chair in 2013 after rising up through the automaker’s ranks. Global marketing vice president Jinya Shoji, who worked at Subaru of America prior to his current position, will return as Doll’s executive VP.

“Rising” aptly describes the Subaru brand in North America. After recording sales of 187,208 vehicles in the U.S. in 2007, the all-wheel-drive brand posted a tally of 647,956 vehicles in 2017. Over the same time span, Canadian Subaru sales rose from 16,504 vehicles to 54,570.

Last month was the best February to date for the midsize Outback wagon and compact Crosstrek in the U.S., with year-over-year sales rising 4 and 60.7 percent, respectively. Overall, the brand grew 3.8 percent, year over year. This spring sees production of the three-row Ascent crossover kick off in Indiana.

Subaru feels confident that the Ascent won’t become another B9 Tribeca. Everything points to a competitive vehicle, and the automaker will certainly need those sales. While it’s still early, year-to-date sales of models like the Legacy and Impreza haven’t topped last year’s tally — not surprising, given the public’s general dislike of anything with a trunk. With a little luck, Ascent sales will plug this hole, and then some.

In the near future, the automaker expects help from Toyota in its electrification efforts. Next to Mazda, Subaru is one of those rare automakers without a hybrid or electric vehicle in its lineup.

While looking at sales data yesterday, it was interesting to note Subaru pushing ahead of another, more mainstream automaker in the U.S.: Hyundai. February wasn’t the first time the Japanese automaker outmuscled the struggling Korean brand, but it’s now become a regular thing. Last month was the third consecutive month where Subaru beat the boys from Seoul.

The leadership changes will become official after a June board of directors meeting.

According to Automotive News, Nakamura is eager to get home, and not just to his wife and kids. “I was posted in the U.S. for four years alone and left my dog in Japan,” he explained. “So, I would like to spend more time with my dog.”

[Images: Subaru]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Redapple Redapple on Mar 02, 2018

    One last thing. RE: My '18 Forester Real peppy off the line. Supple ride yet yips nicely around corners. Love the set up. Just right. Very Glad the CRV salesman was a jag off. That sent me straight to the Subaru dealer.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Mar 02, 2018

    "Subaru is one of those rare automakers without a hybrid or electric vehicle in its lineup." One of those smart automakers.

    • See 1 previous
    • Bowler300 Bowler300 on Mar 04, 2018

      @ernest We're on our 4th Subaru and 2nd Prius right now.

  • Add Lightness As a kid, it was Germany, then Japan, then Korea, now China. Italy was and still is, the maker of needy mistresses.
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  • Dale I like it. Not sure when we will be in the market for a 2nd EV, but this looks like a nice hatchback.
  • FreedMike Cute car. If it's priced right it could be a winner.
  • Theflyersfan By the end of the summer, it will be buy one, get one free with a free charger at home install.